N submitting the contents of this volume to the notice of the public, the writer begs to state that the materials and facts herein contained were delivered to him viva voce by his mother, the principal agent in the narrative, during a late visit to this, her native country.
To him the account seemed interesting in the highest degree, an opinion in which such of his friends as have perused the manuscript have invariably concurred.
The present state of the public mind in regard to emigration has suggested the propriety of immediately giving publicity to the narrative, which is what might be termed the Diary of a Yorkshire Emigrant in the United States of America.
How far such a production is required the public will now determine. It is what it professes to be: 'a true picture;' the incidents are facts—not fiction; the language only in which they are described belongs to the author.
Swillington, August 1st, 1848.
WHATEVER may have been our success in America, I can attribute but little of it to myself; as I gave up the idea of ending my days in my own country with the utmost reluctance, and should never have become an emigrant, if obedience to my husband's wishes had left me any alternative. His motives, briefly stated, were these:—In the year 1817 we took a small farm at a village in Yorkshire on a lease for fourteen years, and as corn was at that time selling well, the rent was fixed at too high a rate for us to obtain a comfortable livelihood. We did indeed by dint of great industry and strict economy, maintain our credit to the end of the lease; but the severe struggles we had to endure to meet our payments, the gradual diminution of our little property, and the entire absence of any prospects of being able to supply the wants of a large family had tended effectually to fix my husband's purpose of trying what could be done in the western world. We accordingly disposed of our little furniture, settled our pecuniary affairs, and ultimately began our long journey the last week in August 1831.
The reader will now enquire to what part of America we were going, or whether we had any plans as to the locality of our future home. This is an important consideration for every emigrant, though little attended to by many. We were not, however, like the poor Northumbrian, who, on landing at New York a few years ago, required a person whom he met in the street, to direct him to the back settlements. My husband had travelled many miles to obtain a sight of private American letters, and after maturely considering all the intelligence he could collect, he determined to go to Pike County, Illinois, to a person named Mr. B—, who had settled there a year or two before, and written to a brother of his in this country.
Without further preface, we are therefore to be considered on our way from the centre of Yorkshire to Liverpool, self, husband, and five children, the eldest a boy about nine years old, two others we were leaving behind, the one my eldest son engaged as an under teacher in a boarding school, the other my eldest daughter serving also in a respectable family. To persons such as we were, who had never been forty miles from home, a journey by waggon and railway, where every hour presents the eye with something new, does not afford the best opportunity for reflection; we in consequence reached Liverpool before we fully felt the importance
6of the step we were taking. Nature had indeed yielded a little as we gazed upon the scenes of our industry, which time had endeared, for the last time. But it was at Liverpool, when we had got our luggage to a boarding-house and were waiting the departure of a vessel, that the throes of leaving England and all its endearments put our courage to a test the most severe. Our minds were now undisturbed by surrounding objects; we occupied a small apartment for which we paid two shillings a day, without even the indulgence of a fire to cook our provisions. The dark smoky walls of the opposite buildings were the only prospect that the situation of our sojourn could afford. Predisposed to melancholy as we were, no one can be surprised when he is told that its effects were soon apparent. A stranger would have thought us a most unsocial family, as we sat in profound silence for an hour together, only now and then a sigh would escape us tending to vary but not to enliven this painful monotony. Even our children participated in our disquietude, and seemed to lose their wonted vivacity. My dear husband, who before had displayed nothing but hardihood, on this occasion had almost played the woman. After a deep silence I not unfrequently observed his eyes suffused with tears, which though unnoticed by him, fell in quick succession down his sunbrowned cheeks. We were six days in this abode, and I may venture to assert that he did not spend six hours of the time in the forgetfulness of sleep. At last the day dawned on which we were to embark. We had already bespoke our berths and paid a deposit to secure them. It was a critical period: my husband appeared to feel as if all the responsibility was laid upon him. He doubtless felt for himself; but his children and myself were the principal objects of his solicitude. Those he was leaving behind would be left to the wide world without any one to watch over them; and that at a time when the passions which actuate the human breast, are in the greatest need of parental authority and advice. The destiny of those he was taking with him appeared about to be consigned to a vague uncertain probability. The die was going to be cast. In twelve hours more we should be on the deep, where return would be impracticable. These considerations,—the perils of the sea the more dreaded because unknown, together with many other weighty considerations which a father and a husband in such a situation could not but feel, got the better of his natural prowess, and that morning he addressed me in the following manner: "O Rebecca, I cannot do it, I cannot do it! for myself I fear nothing; but the impenetrable gloom and uncertainty attending this step completely bewilders me. Should anything befall me, what will become of you and my children on the stormy ocean, or in a strange land and among pathless woods. Bad as our prospects are in England we must go back! Such another night as the last has been I cannot survive! this terrible suspense and anxiety tears me in pieces." Sentiments like these a few months ago would have been hailed with delight, and even then I must confess I felt a sort of inward satisfaction, although I knew them to be rather the effects of his feelings than his mental decisions. If we returned I knew he could not be satisfied with his condition, still less with his
7present conduct. I however acquiesced in silence, only replying, I would do what he thought best. We accordingly began to remove our boxes back to the luggage waggon, whither I accompanied him; but all the time we were thus employed he appeared like one whose movements are coerced. The smile with which he usually accompanied his addresses no longer appeared. I saw it would not do; we returned to our children like those who return from the interment of a near relative, in mournful silence. Never before had I felt so much to devolve on me, and perhaps never in my life did I so much feel it my duty to practise self-denial. My native land was as dear to me as ever: my two children, to whom I had bidden adieu, were strong ties. But the consciousness that it was my duty to bear up the sinking spirits of my partner, left me only one course to adopt. For a moment I raised my eyes to him "who sitteth above the water-floods," and with feelings I am not able to depict, broke silence as follows;—
"I admit, my dear husband, that our situation is a very trying one; but remember how often and how long you have resolved to go to America; hitherto we have experienced nothing that we did not anticipate; and should any calamity befall us on our journey, you have adopted emigration only from a conviction that it would tend to the good of the family; and the Almighty is as able to preserve us and our children across the seas or in America as he is in England. Besides, if we return, we have broken up our home and sold our furniture, and should be worse situated than ever; let us even go, and look to Providence for success." The above advice on my part operated like a charm. All that has been said of the effects of martial music was here realized. His answer was rather in deed than in word. In two hours more our luggage was removed from the waggon, where it had just been placed with a view of returning home, to the ship in which we had taken our berths. The remainder of the day till four o'clock was spent in procuring stores, cooking utensils, &c ., necessary for our voyage; and when the sun went down on the second of September, 1831, we were on the waters; having previously confided ourselves to the care of Him "whom earth and seas are ready to obey."
AFTER we had thus finally determined and put it out of our power to alter that decision, our minds were more at ease than before. There being no longer any doubt as to whether we should go to America, the suspense which had hitherto been so afflicting began in a great measure to subside. My husband resumed his wonted cheerfulness, and expressed his belief that the course we had ultimately adopted would prove the best in the end. We were now passengers, in the steerage, on the vessel "Home," bound for New Orleans. Our reasons for sailing to that port the most distant in North America, and not in a direct course to the Illinois, were on account of the ready transit we should make thence into the interior up the Mississippi; whereas, by landing at New York, Boston, or Philadelphia, we should have had to cross the Alleghany mountains, and travel a great distance by land, which would have been both very troublesome on account of our luggage, and very expensive.
The perplexed state of mind in which we were prior to embarking had prevented our noticing or enjoying the fine sights which the port of Liverpool presents. I speak not of the magnitude of the town, nor of its architectural decorations, but of the immense forests of ships, which on every hand strike the eye of the beholder as he sails out of the harbour. Whatever might have been my ideas of the greatness and wealth of England before, I am sure they were greatly enlarged when I beheld for the first time in my life those unwieldly instruments of commerce crowded like forest trees on the sea further than the eye could reach. As the wind was favourable we soon lost sight of the shore. Yet the eye with unwearied vigilance kept steadily fixed on the few eminences which remained visible, till they gradually waned into obscurity, and at last disappeared altogether. The reader may think me needlessly precise in naming this circumstance; but I assure him there were many on board, who, as well as myself, felt a gratification in gazing at the naked rocks that projected from the land that had given us birth; and when it was finally announced that England was no longer visible, there was not a person in the ship who would not have heartily responded amen to the prayer, ‘God bless it.’ For myself, I felt as if I was leaving all I had been wont to prize; and when I could no longer see the shore, I shall never forget how enviously I looked upon the vessels that were approaching the shores I was leaving. I followed them with my
9eye, one by one, till quite weary with looking I descended into the cabin, and endeavoured to be reconciled to my situation by exercising myself in some necessary employment.
Although we were entire strangers to a sea-faring life, we found we had been judicious in the choice of our provisions: we were well supplied with oatmeal and flour, bacon, biscuits, tea and coffee, &c ., and as we had to cook for ourselves at a fire which supplied all the steerage passengers, I found I should have something to do besides descrying distant sails, and sighing a blessing to those bound for England.
At home I had always been fond of regularity with regard to the dinner hour, but I soon found if I continued my punctual habits on board I should often be liable to be laughed at for my pains, and lose my dinner in the bargain. Imagine to yourself, kind reader, a small fire surrounded by half-a-dozen sturdy rustics, as busy boiling, roasting, and frying, as if their lives depended upon a single meal, and I will hazard an opinion you would be very hungry before you would venture among them. I do not say they would eat you; but either from the motion of the ship, or their uncouthness, your fortune would be better than mine if you got your meal prepared without being scalded. For the above reasons I soon forgot my punctuality, and through the remainder of the voyage our custom was to cook and eat when we could, for seasons are not unknown on ship-board when both must be dispensed with. During the first few days the weather was calm: we had sailed down the Irish channel before the much dreaded sea-sickness began to annoy us. I had even begun to think, that like many other evils, its terrors had been overrated; but before we had been a week on board a heavy gale began to blow from the north-west, the sky became dark and unsettled, when I began to be exceedingly sick; a disorder in which nearly all the passengers participated. Painfully afflictive as this malady was, it soon became of little consideration on account of a more alarming misfortune which threatened to befall us. The sea was beginning to be unusually rough, its huge foaming waves came dashing against the sides of the vessel, as if they had been let loose to destroy it. Sometimes we appeared about to leave the waters, and become inhabitants of aerial regions; then again one might suppose the ship was instantaneously descending into the caverns of the deep, overwhelmed by the mass of waters which on all sides _ encompassed it, and at times came sweeping over the deck with irresistible fury. A thousand times I thought the ship would be upset by the force of the tempest, which, roaring tremendously, carried all before it, and often laid our masts nearly level with the main; when suddenly regaining her upright position, she seemed to be contending with the blast, and by a movement I can scarcely account for, obtruding her briny sails against the forces of the storm. The crew were all in action; their shoutings were vociferous;—louder even than the voice of the wind. Terror and dismay were on every hand. The captain alone preserved his serenity; his orders were delivered in a loud but unfaultering tone; he might have been a divinity of the waters so dignified and majestic was his deportment on this
10occasion. Not so the passengers,— they were indeed mortals, and suppliants too. Impiety was banished from the ship. You might have seen those, who yesterday could not conclude a sentence without the usual flourish of an oath, now on their knees serious enough. The night came on,—the passengers were ordered below: such a night I never witnessed. The storm was incessant. The timbers creaked alarmingly; and the sailors, hurrying to and fro on the deck, filled us with renewed consternation. Every moment we expected the waters to rush in upon us. I shall never forget the horrors of that night, increased as they were by the heartrending meanings of my despairing companions. It was not the time for reflection: reason had little control over our actions; as our fears directed, so we conducted ourselves. Nature's bonds, however, were not entirely dissevered, for then even I found myself in a corner of the cabin, my husband at my right hand, which he often clasped in his, and our dear little children huddled around us, giving us their little hands to fondle over and caress. Art thou a mother, gentle reader, thou mayest in part conceive what my feelings were; but there are sensations which no description can embody; there are emotions which nothing but experience can explain; of this kind were mine. At length the morning began to dawn; we were all anxiety to see the day, and ascertain our real situation. Of all the emotions of which the human bosom is susceptible, suspense is the most intolerable. We desired to know the worst; but our orders were to keep within, and we feared to disobey. The little light we obtained from the semipellucid glass at the top of our cabin, was of no avail. Our ears had caused us to think the storm was abating; but this only increased our anxiety, as we were afraid to hope, lest we should be deceived, when to our surprise the cabin door sprung open; it was the captain himself who had opened it. His appearance was like one of those celestial visitors, which the sacred pages have pourtrayed on errands of mercy. We hurried to meet him; but he desired us to be at ease, assuring us the danger was past. His expressive words "the danger is past," were repeated again and again through all the cabin; and now the scene was changed. In the place of lamentations and the voice of despair, were immediately heard jocularity and the tumult of mirth. His words had metamorphosed the room. Forgotten or disregarded were all the pious vows which had been made the preceding night. "They ate and they drank and they rose up to play;" but few could be seen in the attitude of praise. The storm had indeed abated; and, such is human nature, religion had vanished at the same time. The following day I learnt we had been driven considerably out of our course into the Bay of Biscay; but no further injury was sustained except a little to the cordage, which the sailors shortly put right, and before evening the sails were again unfurled, and our ship in good repair, majestically making head-way across the Atlantic. This was the only storm we encountered during our passage; it was a severe one; even the sailors spoke of it with concern, and seemed aware our danger had been great.
A long sea-voyage is generally allowed to be a tedious time, and
11there is some foundation for the remark, when it is considered how little variety is there observable. The ship, your companions, the sky above you and the ‘dark blue ocean’ below, with occasionally a solitary sail gliding quietly along at a distance, constitute the principal objects that come under the notice of ordinary travellers. There is nothing of that everlasting newness and beauty,—that pleasing variety of hill and dale, of trees whose foliage is varied by a thousand hues, meandering streams, village towers and spires that everywhere meet the eye in an English landscape. Nor is the ear more favoured than the eye. The creaking of the cables and the mast, the coarse discordant notes of the seamen and the monotonous dashing of the waves against the vessel, are the most common and almost the entire sounds that a sea-breeze can boast. The melodious warbling of the grove are there unknown; and when the night-dews are falling, the mellow flute notes of the swain breathing innocence and love, never once remind the passenger on the deep that the labours of the day are ended, and the star of evening appears. The sea, nevertheless, has its beauties and grandeur; but these are rather perceptible to the reflecting mind than the external sense. One evening I well remember when we were about half-way across the Atlantic, I was alone on the deck, pensively considering the peculiarity of my situation, and impatiently desirous to know what my future condition should be, when casting my eyes towards the east I beheld a most magnificent spectacle: the large full moon was just clearing the watery horizon. I always love to see the moon beginning her nocturnal rambles; her beams are the light in which meditation appears the most lovely; but when on that delightful evening, in the midst of the great Atlantic, I beheld the same kind planet, beneath whose balmy light I had gamboled in my childhood and conversed on subjects the most endearing in maturer age, my whole soul was overpowered with ecstacy. Bear with me, kind reader, bear with a woman's weakness, if I tell thee I looked upon her as an old companion, and addressed her as a bosom friend, so forcibly did she remind me of the many delightful and happy hours I had spent under her auspicious beams in my native land. Independent of these interesting associations, her appearance at such a time and in such a place was highly imposing, and calculated in a remarkable degree to remind me of the insignificance of man and his noblest performances. Impressed in this manner I gazed upon her broad disk, and O how magnificently splendid! I next surveyed the deep, gilded on one side by her rays and on the other terminating the view by a dark half-visible horizon; and what a world of water seemed to surround me. I then considered the ship,—poor feeble bark, thought I, how insecure thou art! a single wave could undo thee. Lastly I looked at myself: the contrast was sickening; human pride could not bear it; I cast my eyes once more upon the moon, and returned into the cabin. To proceed,—by the time we had well got half-way across the water, our impatience to see land daily increased; the hours began to pass more tardily along than before. Those that kept their minds most engaged were the most happy; a piece of philosophy this which will generally hold true.
12I am not going to describe my fellow-passengers as philosophers, the few traits I have already given prove they were not; but to do them justice, many of them were expert hands at dispelling melancholy. This they did sometimes by cracking jokes at each other, sometimes by relating portions of their histories, or celebrating the matchless heroism or strength of their kindred. Thus by degrees having severally acquired an epitome of each other's lives, a sort of community was formed and neighbourhoods established, less regulated indeed by locality than peculiar likings. When first we set out each must cook for himself, or at most for his own family; now you might have seen three or four messing together, having previously agreed to throw their respective provisions into one common store. By this means there were fewer dishes to prepare, and consequently better accommodation. We were too strict economists to adopt the joining system; and our solicitude respecting our journey caused us rather to avoid intimacy with our companions than to court it. Yes, many a time when mirth and noise have been the prevailing order on deck, have I sought retirement to muse upon the past, and pry into the future. I own such conduct was unwise; I should have been happier if I could have mingled in the diversions of my companions: but, reader, knowest thou not when the heart is sick the very means which should be beneficial are often the most repulsive?
It was impossible, from the nature of things, that I could be happy, while as yet we were travelling we scarcely knew whither. On one occasion while thus alone on the deck, near the cook's cabin, I perceived an unusual quantity of smoke issuing from the door and chimney, and on looking down I perceived a person named Jack, who by the by had stolen on board at Liverpool and was working his passage, involved in a cloud of smoke and flame from a pan of pitch, which by accident he had spilled into the fire. I gave the alarm, and all hands were immediately on the spot. The wood was beginning to ignite, and if it had not been attended to with the utmost promptitude our situation would soon have been awful. A mattress, which happened to be near, was instantly put upon the chimney to prevent the draught, and buckets of water were plentifully thrown in at the door, so that in a very short time the fire was extinguished. Poor Jack fared the worst: his right arm was almost roasted, which caused him to be, as an invalid, exempt from duty to the end of the voyage. His misfortune excited the compassion of many on board, some of whom presented him with wearing apparel, &c., of which he was in great need. For myself by being in the centre of the crowd, I became entangled in a rope near the mouth of the cabin, which subjected me to the stench and steam thence arising. I was however soon released from my accidental fetters, and laden with the grateful acknowledgments of all around. Another time while pacing upon the deck, I was almost struck dumb to see my son, the boy before alluded to, a fine youth, but uncommonly daring, fast asleep on the bowsprit. The least accidental movement and he would have lost his equilibrium, and been precipitated into the water. Alarmed as I was, I did all that a mother could do in such a situation to preserve the life of one so dear. My husband
13was just at hand. I made no noise, but all in agitation pointed out the cause of my distress. He soon understood me,—and, with all the concern of an affectionate father, hastened softly towards the lad, and rescued him from that imminent peril into which his daring spirit had unwittingly led him.
The recital of these incidents brings me, through the order in which they occurred, towards the West Indies; and to another occurrence which for a short time caused a greater alarm than any thing we met with during the voyage. The circumstances are as fresh in my mind as if they had transpired only yesterday. I had been observing with interest and pity a number of flying fishes occasionally rise out of the water to avoid their pursuers, when several of the passengers came to the side on which I was standing to behold a fine-looking vessel which had recently made its appearance. Various were the conjectures as to whither she was bound and to what country she belonged. It was every one's opinion she approached us, and no little pleasure was experienced at the idea of having a vessel so near us, after having been several days without one. The captain seemed alarmed, and kept continually looking at her with his glass, and shortly afterwards the sailors were seen all busy cleaning out the guns, and preparing them for action. By and by it became whispered on board that the vessel was a pirate, and the busy manner in which the seamen were employed at their guns tended to confirm the conjecture. The captain caused all to come on deck. His motives were immediately made out; meanwhile the vessel, which was a good sailer, kept growing nearer, and every thing betokened hostility. We were all in agitation; even the captain and the sailors turned pale with excitement. Every eye was intent on the vessel, and every muscle betokened alarm. She was now within the range of our guns, which were ready for action. At length she hoisted a colour, and immediately a large spreading flag was unfurled on our ship. A breathless silence succeeded; that moment was indescribable. The flags then flying were symbols of peace. Three cheers, spontaneously given, immediately succeeded. A thrill of transport moved the ship, and not a few wept for joy. Our captain, with a trumpet, asked their intentions; he was answered in English from the other ship that they were sailing to the West Indies, and having encountered a storm, they had injured their time-keeper, and could not ascertain their longitude. We gave them all the information they required, and parted with cheerings which were responded to by the other ship, which we soon afterwards lost sight of. The following day a sailor on the mast announced the appearance of land, a declaration which was eagerly received; during the remainder of the day the passengers were constantly on the look-out, and before night we had the unspeakable pleasure of knowing for ourselves that land was visible. The next day we passed several small islands clad in all the beauty of summer; we were sufficiently near some of them to discover negroes at work besides their little huts, cocoa-nut trees and many other kinds, the names of which I cannot give, being not very near them and but imperfectly conversant with the productions of tropical regions. The weather was here excessively
14hot: but a large sail-cloth being put up to shade us from the sun we almost invariably remained on deck, feasting our eyes with the luxuriant and beautiful appearance of the numerous little islands we were continually passing. I am not aware that the West Indian islands surpass others in beauty, but on account of the length of time we had been without seeing land, we were incessant in our encomiums upon them. Never, thought I, had I seen anything so lovely; I could have wished this the situation of our future abode, this the America so long in anticipation. The two following days no land was visible, a circumstance attended with considerable uneasiness, as we had begun to consider our voyage at an end. On the morning of the third, however, land was again visible, and this was America. A sort of melancholy came creeping over me as I gazed upon it; portentous, perhaps, of the many hardships I was destined there to endure. We were now in the mouth of the Mississippi; that night a large lantern was suspended on the mast, as a signal for the pilot to come on board and take charge of the ship. Early the next morning, while it was yet dark, my husband, who had been on deck most of the night, came to invite me thither. I followed him shortly afterwards, and beheld a fine large city lighted in a most splendid manner: its appearance was really brilliant, and gave me more exalted ideas of the country to which we were hastening. That morning, by break of day, a small boat came cutting the water almost with the speed of the wind; it was rowed along by four black sailors on each side; a dignified person was seated in the midst of them; it was the pilot; he came alongside the ship, and was taken on board with his boat and men. After respectful compliments had passed between him and the captain, he undertook the management of the ship, his own sailors obeying his commands, while ours were relieved from duty to enjoy themselves in chaunting their native melodies, which they did most heartily, almost to the annoyance of the pilot and his men. This was Sunday morning the first in November; we had been on board two months and a few days—a period on which I never look back without emotion as it reminds me of the anxieties I then endured and of the consequences which that voyage involved.
As I intimated in the preceding chapter, we reached New Orleans on Sunday morning; but when I came to survey the town more leisurely, I could scarcely believe it was the Lord's day. I remembered that frequently on our passage I had heard it remarked that the time varied with the time in England a few hours, and for a moment I supposed that the Sabbath varied also. The reader will perceive the cause of my surprise, when he is told that the shops were every where open, stalls set out in all directions, and the streets thronged with lookers-on more in the manner of a fair than a christian sabbath. This I was told was the general method of spending that day in New Orleans. With regard to the inhabitants, their appearance was exceedingly peculiar, their complexions varying almost as much as their features; from the deep black of the flat-nosed negro to the sickly pale hue of the American shopman. This city is a regular rendezvous for merchants and tradesmen of every kind, from all quarters of the globe. Slavery is here tolerated in its grossest forms. I observed several groups of slaves linked together in chains, and driven about the streets like oxen under the yoke. The river, which is of immense width, affords a sight not less unique than the city. No one, except eye-witnesses, can form an adequate idea of the number and variety of vessels there collected, and lining the river for miles in length. New Orleans being the provision market for the West Indies and some of the Southern States, its port is frequented not merely by foreign traders, but by thousands of small craft, often of the rudest construction, on which the settlers in the interior bring down the various produce of their climate and industry. The town itself, from its low marshy situation, is very unhealthy; the yellow fever is an everlasting scourge to its inhabitants, annually carrying off great numbers. As a trading port, New Orleans is the most famous and the best situated of any in America; but whoever values a comfortable climate or a healthy situation, will not, I am sure, choose to reside there. But to resume my narrative: having arrived at the port, it was our intention to proceed immediately up the river to St. Louis; but as no steam vessel left till the next day, we remained on board in front of the town. The custom-house officers had not yet been on board to examine the ship, but as we had nothing for which duty would be required, our captain gave my husband a document to present to the inspectors, by which we were allowed to pass early the next
16morning. Before entering the steam vessel, we got the remainder of our money, all in English sovereigns, exchanged into American dollars. We found that our expenses, since leaving home, amounted to about twenty-three pounds. On leaving the ship I felt a renewal of my home-sickness, to use a quaint expression; it seemed to be the only remaining link between me and England. I was now going to be an alien among strangers. Hitherto I had been accompanied by persons, who when my pain on leaving home manifested itself, could sympathize with me. I should have preferred the meanest passenger on the ship to any I saw on the packet. As, however, we were all in haste to be on our way, I had little time to spend on those tender associations. I certainly left the ship with an aching heart; the captain and cabin passengers had been very kind to us during the voyage, and on going away my children were severally presented with small tokens of approbation, of which they were not a little proud. I must now leave the ship to pursue my route up the stream of the Mississippi to St. Louis, a distance of not less than thirteen hundred miles. The country on each side of the river is of a dead level, but to all appearance exceedingly productive, and cultivated with considerable pains. On account of the heat which prevails in these districts, the productions of tropical regions are here grown in great abundance. The extensive plantations, notwithstanding their flat appearance, are exceedingly beautiful; and if any thing could have made me forget that I was an unsettled exile, the scenery of the country bordering this river must have done it. There was, nevertheless, one drawback: these beautiful plantations are cultivated by slaves, many of whom we saw as we passed along. As we had regularly to stop by the way to obtain timber for our fires, that being the fuel invariably used by the steamers on this river, we had frequent opportunities of stepping ashore. On one occasion a passenger seeing a negro smoking his pipe by his little cabin, which was just at hand, took the liberty of going up to him for the purpose of begging a little fruit, which hung in plenty on the trees around. The negro, without hesitation, granted his request; and our hero immediately mounted a tree, which he partially stripped of its juicy burden. This little incident might have passed unnoticed, had not the intruder on descending from the tree made use of a kind of box, which was underneath, to break his fall; its structure was too slender for so unusual a load, and in consequence he burst in the top to the terror of the negro, who immediately darted across the orchard, leaving our companion to make the best of his misfortune. The latter was soon convinced that he had committed a blunder, as the box was a bee-hive, and its occupants, aware they had been insulted, would accept no apology, but drawing their sabres attacked their foe with tremendous fury. Poor Yankee was no Leonidas; but with all the speed his heels could muster betook himself to the packet, where he was greeted with roars of laughter by his less enterprising associates. As we proceeded up the river the country assumed a more rude and uncultivated appearance: the date and plantain tree of the lower regions were exchanged for majestic forest trees and untrodden wilds. Further down it
17was delightfully pleasant; here magnificently grand eternal forests, in appearance as interminable as the universe, with here and there a patch of ground rudely cultivated by the hand of a lonely settler, constitute the scenery for thousands of miles contiguous to this matchless stream. As to the river itself, I shall not attempt a description of it; what has already been said proves its magnitude to be immensely great; even some of its branches, as the Ohio and the Missouri, are to be classed among the largest rivers in the world. The former is noted for being very muddy, and hurrying in its ungovernable career vast quantities of floating timber, which, decayed by age or other causes, fall into it so as often to render it dangerous for the steamers to pass along. Of these the Mississippi contains acres, that coming from above, have in the lapse of years gradually settled together in places where the current is least active.
Proceeding with my narrative, I must confess I liked the packet much better than I expected. We had engaged to find our own provisions, but on account of their cheapness, or partly because I acted the part of matron to such as needed my assistance, we were frequently presented with young fowls, coffee, rice, &c., so that our food cost us very little on the river. During this transit we obtained considerable information respecting Illinois, which tended in some degree to lessen our disquietude. We were nevertheless very far from being at ease; our unsettled condition was ever the uppermost in our thoughts, and shed a settled gravity over our conduct. Whilst thus the subjects of painful uncertainty, we were one night much alarmed by the following attempt to rob us: my husband and I were in our berths; I was fast asleep, but he was awake, musing upon our situation, when a black man, one of the crew, knowing we were going to settle in the country, and thinking no doubt we should have money with us, came to the side of our berths and began to search under my pillow, so softly indeed as not to awake me; he was going to examine under my husband's likewise, but as he was awake, he told him he could get him anything he wanted; such unexpected kindness was immediately understood, and the villain disappeared in a moment. Although this attempt proved a complete failure, we were induced to give up our money to the captain the following day, which he kept till we arrived at St. Louis. As my husband kept the money under his pillow, I have never looked back on this circumstance but with feelings of gratitude to Almighty God for his protecting providence, for had he succeeded, we should have been in a most miserable situation, not even able to reach the end of our journey;—destitute and penniless in a strange land, without friends and without home. The time occupied in passing from New Orleans to St. Louis was about twelve days. We reached the latter place about noon, and found another steamer ready to convey us forward to the situation at which we purposed to remain. I had little opportunity of surveying the town, and therefore can say little respecting it; but was somewhat surprised to find that this noted city should be built principally of wood; its situation is not the most eligible as it regards health, being near the confluence of the Missouri and the Illinois. It is however on that very
18account likely to become a large and wealthy city, and is indeed by some described as such already. On entering the second steamer I found I had made a poor exchange; the weather was beginning to feel uncommonly chill, and our accommodation was here very inferior, so that we felt exceedingly anxious to be at our journey's end. The place at which we intended to leave the river was not more than one hundred and twenty miles from St. Louis; we therefore comforted ourselves with the idea that we should soon be there. We were finally to disembark at Phillip's Ferry, according to the directions sent by the aforementioned Mr. B. to his brother. We should then be within two miles of his residence. Mr. B., therefore, and Phillip's Ferry, occupied our thoughts almost to the exclusion of every other subject. We had already travelled nearly seven thousand miles. Our food had been principally dried provisions. For many long weeks we had been oppressed with anxious suspense; there is therefore no cause for wonder, that, jaded and worn out as we were, we felt anxious to be at our destined situation. Our enquiries of the sailors ‘how much further we had to go,’ almost exhausted their patience. Already we had been on the vessel twenty-four hours, when just at nightfall the packet stopped: a little boat was lowered into the water, and we were invited to collect our luggage and descend into it, as we were at Phillip's Ferry; we were utterly confounded: there was no appearance of a landing place, no luggage yard, nor even a building of any kind within sight; we, however, attended to our directions, and in a few minutes saw ourselves standing by the brink of the river, bordered by a dark wood, with no one near to notice us or tell us where we might procure accommodation or find harbour. This happened, as before intimated, as the evening shades were rapidly settling on the earth, and the stars through the clear blue atmosphere were beginning to twinkle. It was in the middle of November, and already very frosty. My husband and I looked at each other till we burst into tears, and our children observing our disquietude began to cry bitterly. Is this America, thought I, is this the reception I meet with after my long, painfully anxious and bereaving voyage? In vain did we look around us, hoping to see a light in some distant cabin. It was not, however, the time to weep: my husband determined to leave us with our luggage in search of a habitation, and wished us to remain where we then stood till he returned. Such a step I saw to be necessary, but how trying! Should he lose himself in the wood, thought I, what will become of me and my helpless offspring? He departed: I was left with five young children, the youngest at my breast. When I survey this portion of my history, it looks more like fiction than reality; yet it is the precise situation in which I was then placed. After my husband was gone I caused my four eldest children to sit together on one of our beds, covered them from the cold as well as I could, and endeavoured to pacify them. I then knelt down on the bare ground, and committed myself and little ones to the Father of mercies, beseeching him ‘to be a lantern to my feet, a light unto my path, and to establish my goings.’ I rose from my knees considerably comforted, and endeavoured to wait with patience the return of my husband.
19Above me was the chill blue canopy of heaven, a wide river before me, and a dark wood behind. The first sound we heard was that of two dogs that came barking towards us, so as greatly to increase our alarm; the dogs came up to us, but did us no harm, and very soon after I beheld my dear husband, accompanied by a stranger, who conducted us to his habitation, whither our luggage was shortly afterwards removed in a waggon. My husband had followed a sort of cattle track, which led him to the house, which had been concealed by trees and underwood growing around it. And now, for the first time in my life, did I fairly see the interior of a log-house, which, however rude I might think it, I felt, as the reader will readily believe, most happy to enter. It was much more comfortable to sleep on a bed laid on the floor before a fire of glowing embers, than it would have been on the cold ground, which a short time before I feared would be my lodging. The following morning, after a comfortable night's repose, we felt our health and spirits improved. My husband began to examine the soils and produce of the country, and I to collect what information I could respecting American housewifery, manners, religion, &c. Our hostess was a little woman, exceedingly fond of smoking, as the Americans generally are, particularly the females. Before leaving England I had heard a great deal said in behalf of American hospitality, but these encomiums certainly require to be qualified: they are exceedingly hospitable to gentlemen who may be making a tour, likewise amongst themselves as neighbours; but when they know a person really must trouble them, they appear to be aware they are conferring a favour, and expect an equivalent. The little lady I have been describing knew little of generosity; we understood very soon that we should be expected to pay for our harbour, although we used our own provisions. I am forgetting that on one occasion she generously told me I might give my children the broth in which she had boiled some cabbage, if I thought they would drink it; I told her they had not been accustomed to such fare. We remained here three days, during which I became tolerably conversant in the theory of American housekeeping, and as Mrs. Phillips (that was the name of our hostess) was very loquacious, she initiated me into the peculiarities of Illinois politeness. No person, however slender his pretensions to knighthood, or how long so ever the time since his small-clothes were new, is addressed without the courteous epithet of ‘Sir;’ and this practice is observed by the members of the same family in their intercourse with each other; of course the females are in like manner honoured with ‘Madam,’Ubi tu Caius, ego Caia. It is not etiquette in Illinois to sit at the table after you have done eating; to remain after you have finished your meal implies that you have not had sufficient. This custom I subsequently found a very convenient one.
But I am forgetting the house. It was a fair specimen of a log-house, and therefore a description of it will give the reader a pretty correct idea of the American peasantry. There were two rooms, both on the ground floor, separated from each other with boards so badly joined, that crevices were in many places observable. The rooms were nearly square, and might contain from
20thirty to forty square yards each; beneath one of the rooms was a cellar, the floor and sides of which were mud and clay, as left when first dug out; the walls of the house consisted of layers of strong blocks of timber, roughly squared and notched into each other at the corners; the joints filled up with clay. The house had two doors, one of which is always closed in winter, and open in summer to cause a draught. The fire was on the floor at the end of the building, where a very grotesque chimney had been constructed of stones gathered out of the land, and walled together with clay and mud instead of cement. It was necessarily a great width, to prevent the fire from communicating with the building. The house was covered with oak shingles; that is to say, thin riven boards nailed upon each other, so as just to over-reach. The floors of the house were covered with the same material, except a large piece near the fire, which was paved with small stones, also gathered from the land. There was no window to the house I am describing, although many log-houses may now be found having glass windows. This inconvenience I pointed out to my hostess, who replied, ‘upon the whole it was as well without, for in winter the house was warmer and in summer they had always the door open, which was better than any window.’ It is in reality true, that the want of light is felt very little in a log-house; in winter they are obliged to keep fine blazing fires, which, in addition to the light obtained from their low wide chimneys, enable the inmates to perform any business that is requisite.
It is however by no means to be understood that an American log house equals in comfort and convenience a snug English cottage. It is quite common to see, at least, one bed in the same room as that in which the fire is kept; a practice which invariably gives both the bed and house a filthy appearance. There was no chamber, only a sort of loft, constructed rather with a view to make the house warmer, than to afford additional room. Adjoining one side were a few boards nailed together in the form of a table, and supported principally by the timber in the wall. This was dignified with the name ‘sideboard.’ In the centre of the room, stood another small table, covered with a piece of coarse brown calico; this was the dining table. The chairs, four in number, were the most respectable furniture in the house, having bark of ichory platted for bottoms. Besides these there were two stools and a bench for common use,—a candlestick made from an ear of Indian corn, two or three trenchers and a few tin drinking vessels. One corner of the house was occupied with agricultural implements, consisting of large hoes, axes, &c., for stubbing, called in America grubbing, flails and wooden forks, all exhibiting specimens of workmanship rather homely. Various herbs were suspended from the roof with a view of being medicinally serviceable, also two guns, one of them a rifle. There were also several hams and sides of bacon, smoked almost till they were black; two or three pieces of beef, &c. Under one of the beds were three or four large pots filled with honey, of which Mrs. P. was not a little lavish, as she used it to every meal along with coffee. The furniture in the other room consisted of two beds and a hand-loom, with which the family wove the greater
21part of their own clothes. In the cellar I observed two or three large hewn tubs, full of lard, and a lump of tobacco, the produce of their own land, in appearance sufficient to serve an ordinary smoker his life. During our sojourn at Mr. Phillips', my husband found Mr. B., and on the third day after our arrival, brought that gentleman's team, two stiff oxen yoked to a clumsy sledge; on which we placed our beds, boxes, &c. and bid good by to Mrs. P., who, as we paid her for our harbour, contrived to shed a tear or two at the thoughts of parting. After arriving at Mr.B's house, I certainly felt I had been a little cajoled. My husband had seen him the day before, but had made no mention of his condition. He was in the fields when we arrived; but as the door was unlocked, or rather lockless, we took the liberty of introducing ourselves and luggage. Mr. B. was at once a bachelor and solitaire. He had left England precipitately, and what is more unusual, a great part of his money, which at this time he was daily expecting by a remittance. The property he had taken with him was all expended in land and cattle, so that a little money was a desideratum. Shortly after our arrival, Mr. B. made his appearance, which, as I before intimated, was rather mysterious. In his letters sent to England, he had spoken of his situation as ‘a land flowing with milk and honey’ but I assure you patient reader, his appearance would have led any one to suppose that he gathered his honey rather from thorns than flowers. He was verily as ragged as a sheep: too much so for decency to describe. And his house was more like the cell of a hermit who aims at super-excellence by enduring privations than the cottage of an industrious peasant. The bed on which he slept was only like a bolster which he had used on shipboard, and laid upon a kind of shelf of his own constructing. Then again the walls of his house were of hewn timber as others, but the joinings or interstices were left quite open. The first night I passed in this miserable abode I was almost perished. My husband was obliged to heat a flat iron, and after wrapping it in flannel, apply it to my feet, so little were we protected from the inclemency of the weather. Finding our comforts here so few, we determined to have a home of our own as soon as possible. Mr. B. was too busy in his farm to render my husband much assistance in selecting a piece of ground. Besides the condition of this haut-de-chausse rendered it almost imperative upon him to keep near home, especially as he was a bachelor.
Before I proceed any further with my narrative, perhaps it will be of advantage to the reader to explain the method of purchasing land in the United States. The land in the various states has all been surveyed by direction of the government, and divided into portions of eighty acres each. For the sale of the land thus surveyed and laid down on large plans, a land-office is established in various central situations, where all the allotments of a certain district are sold, and the purchasers' names registered. Any person, therefore, who wishes to purchase one or more of these subsections, can see the plan, and select any that are unsold. They will even sell as small a quantity as forty acres; but as they do this merely to accommodate new settlers, no person already possessing
22eighty acres, can purchase a smaller quantity than that at a time. In some of the older states the government lands are all sold off. It must there be bought of private owners; but in Illinois and other new states there is plenty unsold. The government price everywhere is one hundred dollars for eighty acres. As there are myriads of acres yet in its native luxuriant wildness, any person may with impunity cultivate as much as he chooses without paying anything; and, as a further inducement, when a person begins thus to cultivate, no other person can legally purchase that land, till four years have expired from the time of his beginning to cultivate. By obtaining what is termed a pre-emption the improvement arising from his own industry is as secure to him for four years as if he was the actual owner. Should, however, he fail to pay for the land before the term expires, an indifferent person may then purchase it; but this seldom happens. Every person purchasing land at the office, must declare upon oath, if required, that no other party has an improvement on it. And, if it be proved to be otherwise, such purchase is in every case invalid; and the fraudulent party liable to a heavy fine. An improved eighty acres was the first land we purchased: we obtained it in the following manner:—A person named Mr.Oakes having heard that a family about to settle was sojourning at Mr. B.'s came to invite my husband to buy some venison, which he had killed with his rifle just before. My husband went with him, and in conversation found he was disposed to sell his improvement right; for the four years were not expired, and he had not entered it at the land office. For this right he wanted sixty dollars. My husband told him he would call upon him the next day, and returned to Mr. B.'s after buying a quantity of nice venison at a halfpenny per pound. The following day, my husband and I visited at Mr. Oakes's, who took us round the estate, shewed us the boundaries, which were marked out by large stones set at each corner, termed the corner stones. On the land there were about four hundred sugar maples which Mr. Oakes had tapped the preceding year. These trees grow plentifully in the United States, and promise with proper culture to supersede the use of West Indian sugar in America. They like a low situation and a deep soil, and grow to a larger size than any trees in this country. They are said to thrive the better the oftener they are pierced. The method of obtaining sugar from them is very simple. A small cabin, or, as it is there termed, camp, is built in the midst of the trees; two or three large coppers, holding from five to ten gallons each, are set within it, to boil the liquor, which being drained from the trees into hewn wooden troughs, is carried into the camp. The incisions are made with an auger in the beginning of March, when the sap is beginning to rise. Into each of these holes a tube is inserted, about an inch in diameter, so as just to fill the hole, through this the liquor flows as through a spout. The tree from which these tubes are made, is admirably adapted for the purpose, growing somewhat like the elder, only its branches are straighter and contain more pith. It is usually called in Illinois the shoemaker's tree, its botanical name I do not know. The most suitable weather for the discharge of this
23liquor is when the days are fine and the nights frosty. After the liquor is thus collected, it is boiled down to the consistency of thin treacle. It is then strained through a coarse woollen cloth, and afterwards boiled again at a slower fire till it becomes hard and firm like raw sugar. It is at present much used in the United States, and always sells at a higher rate than that from the West Indies. On the land now under consideration, Mr. Oakes had broken up about twelve acres, three of which were sown with wheat, and the remaining nine ready to be sown with Indian corn, oats, &c. the following spring. As we liked the situation and land very much and were wishful to be settled, the agreement was completed that evening, and the money paid and possession obtained the following day. The reader is aware that the sixty dollars given to Mr. Oakes, were only for his house, improvement right, sugar-making utensils, &c. One hundred more we paid at the land office, at Quincy, and we obtained the usual certificate or title deeds; and thus by the first of December, having spent about thirty pounds in travelling, thirty-five more in land, &c. we were the rightful owners of a farm of eighty acres, with a log house in the centre of it. What more could we require? The reader will perceive in the next chapter.
During the time we were at lodgings we had felt ourselves dependent, and looked forward with anxious expectation to the time when we might again taste the sweets and independence of home, and those enjoyments which are only to be expected at one's own fireside. That period had now arrived. We had indeed a house such as I have already described, but we had no furniture except two large boxes, two beds, and a few pots and cooking utensils; besides, our provisions were just finished. Till this time we had been using principally the remains of biscuits, &c., purchased at New Orleans. The first wants of nature must be first attended to: whether we had a chair to sit on or not, something to eat we must have. Our nearest neighbour lived about half-a-mile from us, and we were at least two miles and a-half from any place at which flour was sold; thither, however, my husband went, and as our money was growing scarce, he bought a bushel of ground Indian corn, which was only one-third the price of wheaten flour; it was there sold for thirty cents a bushel. Its taste is not pleasant to persons unaccustomed to it; but as it is wholesome food, it is much used for making bread. We had new some meal, but no yeast, nor an oven; we were therefore obliged to make sad paste, and bake it in our frying pan on some hot ashes. We procured a little milk of our nearest neighbour, Mr. Paddock, which, on account of the severe frosts that prevail in Illinois, we generally received in lumps of ice. Thus we lived the first few weeks at our new estate. Hasty pudding, sad bread, and a little venison which we had left, were our ordinary food. The greater part of my husband's time was spent in cutting and preparing wood for our fires. About this time we made further purchases of a cow and calf, for which we paid fourteen dollars, a young mare, which cost us twenty dollars, two pigs, and a shallow flat-bottomed iron pan, with a cover to it, to bake in. This is the common, and indeed almost the only kind of oven used in Illinois. It is vulgarly called a skellit. To make it hot it is immersed in glowing embers, the lid is then removed till the dough is put in; it is then replaced and ashes again thrown over it, till the cake is baked. Hence it will be perceived that a quantity of bread beforehand is unknown in Illinois: their custom is to bake a cake to each meal, which is generally very good; eggs and milk being so plentiful, are regularly used in their bread, along with a little celeratus to lighten it, whereby it becomes very
25rich and nutritive. The Illinois settlers live somewhat differently from the English peasantry; the former have only three meals a-day, and not much variety in them: bread, butter, coffee, and bacon, are always brought to the table, but fresh meat is a rarity, and is never obtained as in England by going to a butcher for it. In Illinois the farmers all kill their own cattle, and salt what is not used immediately; sometimes, however, they distribute portions among their neighbours, with the view of receiving as much again when they kill theirs. It is by no means uncommon for an old settler to have a couple of fowls, ducks, a goose, or a turkey to dinner; and, generally speaking, everybody has plenty of plain good food. [The object contemplated in this work requires that I should occasionally leave my own history, to render more complete the information I have to impart; I hope, therefore, the reader will not think me incoherent. To proceed:] we bought the live stock above described of Mr. Oakes, and as it was winter, we wanted something with which to feed them. Indian corn is nearly the only winter food used in Illinois; and as the culture and management of it occupy a great portion of the farmer's time and industry, it may be not out of place to explain the method of cultivating it: the land intended for Indian corn should be ploughed and harrowed once or twice to make the earth loose and mellow, that the roots may strike with great freedom; furrows are then made at the distance of about a year from each other: these are afterwards crossed by the furrows made at right angles to the first, and about the same distance apart; by this means the field appears divided into numberless little square portions, each somewhat less than a square yard as if hollowed at the centre; into each of these crossings four seeds are thrown, and slightly covered with a hoe; this is done in the beginning of March, and after the young blades make their appearance the plough is occasionally drawn along between the rows, for the purpose of checking weeds and keeping the mould as light as possible; as these groups of plants are so far apart, kidney beans, melons, and pumpkins are frequently sown among them, for which is strong stems of the corn are excellent supports. Indian corn usually ripens about the beginning of October, and is of an immense produce. There are commonly four or five ears to each stem, each ear having from five hundred to a thousand grains in it. As the ears ripen they gradually assume a pendent form, and are in that position severally overhung with the leaves of the plant, which form a sort of sheath, securely protecting them from rain; in this manner, when properly ripened, it will remain in perfect safety all winter uncut; and it is by no means uncommon to sow the land with wheat before the corn crop is all removed. It is not always allowed to ripen; part of the crop is often cut, when the corn is about half-fed, which being dried in the sun, the stem and leaves make excellent hay; in this state it is both hay and corn, and it is fact the only hay the farmer preserves for winter, of which he makes small stacks of a peculiar construction, so as not to require thatching. Nothing can be more beautiful than a field of Indian corn in full blossom, and perhaps nothing in nature displays the munificence of Providence more strikingly
26than this matchless plant. In order to supply our cattle with winter meat, we applied to Mr. Paddock, our nearest neighbour, who sold us part of a field unreaped; some of it we cut down and took home, the rest we allowed to stand and turned our cattle to it. The reader may think it strange that we should turn cattle into the fields in the depth of winter, especially as the winters are there more severe than in England; it is however the regular custom: the cattle are inured to it, as they are never kept up any part of the year, either day or night. The two pigs we had bought we were obliged to kill shortly after we purchased them, as we wanted them for our own use, and we wished to spare the small stock of Indian corn we had on hand. The reader must also know our money was nearly done: I believe we had not more than four or five dollars remaining; part of it we were obliged to spend in sulphur, to cure what is called the Illinois mange, from which we were all suffering.
This complaint invariably attacks new settlers, shortly after their arrival, and is a complete scourge until it is removed. The body breaks out all over in little spots, attended with intolerable itching. It is generally attributed to the change of water, but as theirs possesses no peculiarity of taste, I cannot understand how that can be the cause. We were soon cured after using the sulphur, and never felt anything more of it.
It has already been said that when we entered our house we had no furniture; this inconvenience my husband, although no joiner, had undertaken to remove, by making for himself and me each a stool, and a low bench for our children, or more properly a log of wood, squared and laid across the hearth for a seat. He had also contrived to make a table, which if not as neat as those used in England, was quite as substantial: having met with a section of a strong tree about two feet long, he rolled it into the house, and set it upon its end; had it been a little longer, its upper surface would have been just what we wanted; we however nailed a few boards upon It, making them fit as well as we could, and having covered it with a cloth to conceal its roughness, it was far from being contemptible, at least for persons like us, who had been some days without any. As to bedsteads, we were a few weeks before we got any; of course we had them to make ourselves, and as we were ill furnished with tools and unaccustomed to such employment, when they were finished they served rather to shew how little ornament is absolutely necessary, than our skill as expert carpenters. Hitherto the light of the fire had served us instead of a candle, which was very inconvenient, as I wished to sew a little in the evenings. It is certainly true that days are never so short as in England, nevertheless we were very wishful to have some candles. The inhabitants commonly make their own, in tin moulds; but as we had neither moulds nor tallow, we were obliged to put a little lard into a saucer, and light a piece of rag previously inserted in it; by this we could see to sew and read pretty well; but as the rag frequently got immersed in the melted lard it was very troublesome, and by constant use we had three or four saucers broken with the heat, a circumstance much to be regretted, as pots of all kinds are dear in Illinois. To
27prevent a recurrence of this misfortune we ultimately made use of our kettle lid, inserting the knob or holder into a piece of board to make it stand. Our next great inconvenience was want of soap: having however learnt from Mrs. Phillips the method of making it, we were by this time in a state of readiness for supplying ourselves. The reader will remember we had before this time killed two pigs, the entrails of which we had cleaned and preserved, along with the bits of offal, rendering, scraps, &c., and now the finest of our ashes were collected and put into a large wooden trough, and boiling water poured over them, whence we obtained a strong solution of potash, which we poured off and boiled down; fresh ashes were then used as before, and a fresh solution obtained; the whole was next boiled down to about one third of the original quantity, by which means the solution became so caustic, that it would have taken the skin off one's fingers in a moment. In this state the waste meat and entrails were mixed with it, which it very soon assimilated. After it had obtained the consistency of soft soap, it was poured into a vessel appropriated for the purpose, to be ready for use.
This is the manner the American peasantry supply themselves with soap. Their practice of burning wood furnishes them with potash, which they saturate with other ingredients as above described. Since we were thus obliged to provide necessaries for ourselves in a manner very different from that to which we had been accustomed in England, it may be asked if there are no shops in that country. Illinois, it must be known, is very thinly populated, and on that account it is not the situation for shopkeepers. There are, however, in various places, what are termed store keepers, who supply the settlers with articles the most needed, such as food, clothing, implements of husbandry, medicine, and spirituous liquors: for which they receive in exchange the produce of their farms, consisting of wheat, Indian corn, sugar, beef, bacon, &c. As these storekeepers exercise a sort of monopoly over a certain district, their profits are great, and they often become wealthy. Besides their store, they often have a saw-mill and a corn-mill, at which they grind the corn they obtain from the farmers, for the purpose of sending it to New Orleans, or some other place where it can be readily sold. Stores therefore are in Illinois, nearly what markets are in England, only there is more barter in the former country. The mills in that neighbourhood are chiefly turned by water. We were destined to be unfortunate with the young mare we had purchased of Mr. Oakes. Having been accustomed to run in the fields with other horses, she would not settle with our cow and calf. Every day she was lost; no fences could turn her. We were therefore obliged to sell her, or rather exchange for one not near so good; only she was expected to have a foal the following spring. Shortly after we had parted with the young mare, my husband found two strange horses in the field feeding upon our corn, he turned them out and returned home. On going to the field again they were there a second time; he felt assured some one had turned them in, as the fences were all good. The next morning explained the circumstance, for the horses being in the field as before, he was
28about to drive them out, when a tall man hastened towards him, and bade him desist, telling him that the horses were his and he intended them to be there. My husband remonstrated with him on the injustice of such behaviour, and persevered in his attempts to drive them out; at which the person, whose name was Brevet, went up to him, and struck him a blow on the forehead with his fist, and threatened further violence if he did not allow them to remain. Seeing that physical force was the only available argument, my husband began to prepare for resistance; but calling to mind the situation of his family, and not knowing what perfidy might be resorted to, he wisely concluded to leave the man and his horses where they were. I mention this circumstance principally to shew how much we were indebted to an over-ruling Providence for the preservation of my husband's life on this occasion. We afterwards learnt that Brevet was a pest to the neighbourhood, and that he had told one of his acquaintances of this interview, and declared he would have stabbed my partner with a large dirk which he always carried with him, if he had resisted. In a short time afterwards he left the neighbourhood, dreaded or detested by all who knew him. We have already seen that considerable labour is required to prepare fuel, as a good fire in America is essential during the winter season. The frosts are intensely keen, a wide river is sometimes iced over in a single night, so as to be unnavigable. Every thing of a fluid nature, exposed to the weather, is formed into a solid. For two or three months the milk freezing as soon as it is taken from the cows, affords no cream, consequently no butter. It is nevertheless possible to obtain butter, by keeping the churn near the fire, and churning cream and milk both together; but as this method is exceedingly troublesome it is seldom practised. The nights in winter are at once inexpressibly cold, and poetically fine. The sky is almost invariably clear, and the stars shine with a brilliancy entirely unknown in the humid atmosphere of England. Cold as it was, often did I, during the first winter, stand at the door of our cabin, admiring their lustre and listening to the wolves, whose howlings, among the leafless woods at this season, are almost unceasing. These animals are numerous in America; and, unless the sheep be regularly folded, their depredations are extensively injurious, as they lacerate the throats of nearly all the flock; sometimes also they will seize young pigs, but as they fear the old ones, unless they are impelled by hunger, these animals are not in much danger. The timid submissive sheep is always their favourite prey. The reader will perceive we had not much intercourse with the rest of the world. For a while no one seemed to notice us, except Mr. B., our neighbour Mr. Paddock, and one Mr. Burns, who lived about two miles off, (all are Misters in America.) But indeed the villainous conduct of Mr. Brevet had made us so suspicious, that we scarcely knew whether to wish for an increased circle of acquaintance, or entire seclusion. One thing was very afflictive, our being deprived of Christian Sabbath ordinances. We always honoured that day, by abstaining from our accustomed labour; we read our Bible, and meditated thereon: but Sabbath after Sabbath passed away
29without our once being able to assemble with those who ‘keep holy day,’ or in the great congregation to unite our tribute of praise, with the aspirations of those whose sentiments are ‘how amiable are thy tabernacles O Lord of Hosts!’ At this time we were five miles from any place where public worship was regularly conducted; subsequently preaching-houses much nearer were opened, the character of which will be noticed in its proper place. The motives which occasioned this work to be written require that a strict regard to truth be maintained; and, in matters of fact, that nothing be introduced calculated to mislead, either by deterring or alluring; this rule has hitherto been carefully observed. Am I then asked if we thus far were satisfied with the step we had taken, my answer is, we regretted it very much. We had indeed plenty of corn-bread and milk, but neither beer nor tea; coffee was our chief beverage, which we used very sparingly, for want of money. All the water we wanted we had to thaw, and during the nights, on account of the severe frosts, we were very cold indeed; although we always kept the fire burning. Our bed-clothes we had taken with us from England, and we were unable to procure any more, as they were dear, and our means almost exhausted. We had indeed some good land, but it was nearly all uncultivated, and we had nothing to sell except our cattle, which we wanted. The only ground of hope we had was in our industry and perseverance. My husband worked very hard; the little time we had to spare, after feeding the cattle and procuring fuel, was spent in splitting trees to make rails. All the fences here are made of rails, there are no thorns in the neighbourhood. The method of fencing is peculiar: they use no posts; but having prepared their rails, they lay one down on the ground, where they wish to make a fence; not precisely in the same direction as the line of their intended fence, but making a small angle with it. Another rail is then laid down with its end overreaching the first, with which it forms a cross like the letter X, only instead of the crossing being at the centre, it is near the end of each rail. A third is then made to cross the second as before, and so on to an indefinite length. On each side of these several crossings a stake is driven into the ground to prevent their being removed. Other rails are then placed upon these, crossing each other in a similar manner, till the fence is as high as it is required. Generally they are about nine rails high. From the description here given, the reader will perceive that the fences are not straight as in England, but in a continued zig-zag. The reason for this difference is, timber and land are of comparatively little value in America, while their method requires less labour than ours. In this manner we spent our first winter; we had plenty of work; our amusements even tended to advantage. Great numbers of quails frequented our home-stead to feed on our small stock of Indian corn; we caught several of them with snares, which were excellent eating. My husband also shot a few rabbits, of which there are vast numbers in America. We likewise saw several deer, but as we had no rifle, we could not kill any. We observed several kinds of birds, which we had not before seen, one in particular, which we took to be a species of turkey, engaged our attention;
30my husband tried several times to kill one, without effect. One Saturday, however, he was successful, and brought home his game with as much apparent consciousness of triumph, as if he had slain some champion hydra of the forest. The following day we expected Mr. B., who by this time had received his money, to dine with us. We accordingly dressed our bird, and congratulated ourselves with the idea of having our countryman to dine with us on a fine boiled turkey. Sunday morning arrived, and in due time our turkey was in the pot boiling for dinner. Mr. B. came; we told him how happy we were on account of the treat we were going to give him. He was surprised at our story, as those birds are difficult to obtain with a common fowling-piece, and desired to see the feet and head. But the moment he saw them, he exclaimed ‘it's a buzzard,’ a bird which, we subsequently learnt, gormandizes any kind of filth or carrion, and consequently is not fit to be eaten. We were sorely disappointed; our turkey was hoisted into the yard, and we were obliged to be contented with a little bacon, and a coarse Indian corn pudding, for which our stomachs were not altogether unprepared, although recently in anticipation of more sumptuous fare. The reader may think we were stupid not to know a turkey; the bird in question is very much like one, and indeed on that account is called in Illinois a turkey-buzzard.
As spring approached we felt some symptoms of those hopes which had animated us in England with reference to our success as emigrants. Man's career in prospective is always brilliant; and it is providentially ordered that it should be so. Could we have foreseen our destiny, the prospect would have thrown us into despair. It would have robbed us of much present enjoyment, and unfitted our minds for the difficulties with which we had to struggle. I am, however, anticipating my history. The symptoms to which I referred originated with the idea of being the cultivators of our own land. How those prospects were realized, the sequel will explain. By the beginning of March our Indian corn was done, and it had served so long only through the greatest care. There was however by this time a little fresh grass in the woods, to which we were very glad to turn our little stock, consisting as before stated of a cow and calf, and a mare near foaling. As this method of summering cattle in America is peculiar to that country, and affords to the farmer considerable advantages, I shall endeavour to be explicit in the account of it, which I am about to give. I must then premise that all unenclosed lands, whether purchased of government or otherwise, are considered common pasturage; and as there are in Illinois thousands of acres in that state, any person can keep as many cattle during summer as he chooses. They are turned out at spring, and thus run where they please. A person unacquainted with these habits would naturally be afraid of losing them in such immeasurable regions. This, however, seldom happens. There are few animals having a sufficiency of food that are fond of ranging over strange domains. Even in this country we observe foxes and hares to have their favourite haunts, from which it is difficult to break them. Domesticated animals manifest
31this principle of attachment still more strongly. Hence no American farmer, having his cattle on the range, would fear being able to find them in a few hours; and indeed a person unacquainted with the haunts of any certain herd, would most probably go directly towards them. Rivers and smaller streams have certainly some confining influence, but independent of that, their habits are to frequent those situations only to which they are accustomed. In that country cattle have a great liking for salt, and indeed it seems essential to their health, particularly in summer. An English farmer would smile to see a herd of cattle contending with each other over a few handfuls of dry salt which had been thrown on the floor for them. This is seen every day in America. The milch cows require more of it than the rest, and unless they are regularly served with it, their milk becomes unpleasant. This induces them to come to their stand to be milked twice-a-day. Oxen and heifers will take no harm if they have a little twice-a-week, or even not so often. Where so many different herds of cattle run at large, there is a greater danger of their intermixing than of their being lost. To prevent this, great care is taken by each grazier at the spring to mark his own. Some cut their ears in various ways. Others burn certain marks on their horns with a hot iron. There is not, however, much confusion. The cattle which have been fed together during winter, most generally associate with each other in summer; all having an unaccountable attachment to the master beast of the herd, apparently considering his presence a source of protection or honour. For this reason the owner usually suspends a bell round this animal's neck, which enables him to find his cattle with greater ease. Hence the phrase, ‘bear the bell,’ is common even in this country. In this manner the cattle graze during summer, and when the pasturage fails, they cease to range; but besetting their master's cabin with incessant lowings remind him that winter is approaching, and that their claims to his bounty deserve attention, and must have it. At this time if any strange cattle have joined the herd, the law requires that the farmer cause them to be valued, and their mark to be taken down and sent to four of the nearest mills for publicity; if they are not owned within a year they belong to the herd. I must now leave our small herd of cattle running in the woods, to acquaint the reader with our first summer's performances and success. The first fruits of our industry were derived from our sugar orchard, the care of which devolved principally on me. We were in want of nearly all kinds of implements of husbandry, without the means of procuring them, except by running into debt, a practice which we felt reluctant to adopt. Our sugar trees therefore at this time afforded us a seasonable boon. The weather was favourable, and by hard working we made nearly three hundred weight, besides a barrel of molasses. We disposed of the greater part of it to a store-keeper named Mr. Varley, at the rate of seven or eight cents per pound. It must not be understood that we got money for it. Business is seldom transacted after that manner in Illinois. My meaning is we were allowed to take anything we wanted from the store by paying for it with sugar at the above
32rate. Our first care was to have some Indian corn for seed, and some more meal for our own use, which at that time we wanted. We likewise obtained a little coffee, two or three hoes, and a Yankee axe, which is much larger and broader than the one used in this country, and better adapted for the every-day business of hewing large blocks of timber for fuel and other purposes. And now, kind reader, if thou hast any intentions of being an emigrant, I cordially wish thee success; but before thou forsakest the endearments of thy present home, consider the situation in which we were placed with a helpless family dependent upon us. Thou hast seen us expend our little money with the utmost frugality; thou art acquainted with our possessions, real and personal. It was now the middle of March, when Indian corn, the most useful produce of that country, must be sown, or the season would be past. We had land and seed, but no plough, nor any team, except an old mare, that we feared would scarcely live while she foaled, and consequently we could not yoke her. What could we do? If we did not sow we could not reap; we should have nothing to feed our cattle with the ensuing winter. Labor omnia vincit was our motto. We set to work with our hoes; I, husband, and son, the latter under ten years of age, and day after day, for three successive weeks, did we toil with unwearied diligence till we had sown and covered in nearly four acres. We should probably have sown more, had not the rains which fall in torrents at this season prevented us. Whilst referring to the weather, it will be proper to observe that during the month of April in Illinois, a great quantity of rain usually falls, accompanied almost invariably with thunder storms of a most awful character. A person who has lived only in England can have but an imperfect conception of these electrical phenomena. They happen most frequently in the night, which considerably increases their power of striking terror through the most intrepid bosom. The weather is at this time close and sultry, and as the sun declines the sky becomes gradually overcast; midnight arrives, a pitchy darkness overhangs the earth; by and by the wind begins to roar in the trees, and the hoarse thunder in the distance announces the coming of the storm. As it approaches the thunder claps wax louder and louder, while the lightning begins to play across the gloomy firmament, in a most awful and terrific manner. Every moment the voice of the thunder acquires additional compass, never ceasing even for a moment; but before one peal has well broken on the ear, it is drowned by another still more tremendous and loud. The lightning is even more overpowering than the thunder. One moment all is in obscurity, a second the heavens seem rent asunder, the bright blue lightning dancing in all directions with a frightful and deadly velocity; meanwhile the rain descends in torrents, threatening to sweep away the foundation of the dwelling. The length of time these storms continue is generally about an hour. The first I witnessed made an impression on my mind that will never be forgotten; my senses were completely disordered: I became alarmed at the slightest noise, and for a while felt more afraid of a thunder storm than of any calamity which appeared in the power of misfortune
33to inflict upon me. Probably my late anxieties and bereavement preying on my mind had indisposed my nerves for such phenomena, at once terrific, awful, and sublime. But whatever was the cause, I have great pleasure in stating that I soon got the better of my timidity. Trees have frequently been struck near our house, but hitherto no accident has befallen us. We now consider these storms rather as annoying than dangerous; one reason perhaps is that a dry log house is a bad conductor of the electric fluid. About this time we were sorely tormented with another scourge, which unlike the one just noticed, possessed exceedingly little of a poetical or sublime character. It certainly operated on the nerves powerfully enough, but that in a manner rather calculated to move the lower than the more elevated passions of our nature. I refer to the musquetoes; swarms of which infest that country during spring and autumn, much to the annoyance of its inhabitants. This troublesome insect is not unlike the gnat, which in this country so often terminates its existence by flying into the candle. Its bite is slightly venomous, causing small blisters somewhat like those occasioned by the sting of a nettle, only the pain attending it is more acute. They are the most numerous in low situations, or among thick woods where the heat is less oppressive. This insect cannot bear great heats, and on that account is never seen during the hottest weather, except in very shady places. It is always most troublesome in the nights; and as it makes a constant humming when it flies, it is a most noisy as well as a most unwelcome guest in a lodging room. I do assure the reader I have lain for hours together with a handkerchief in my hand, fanning them from my face, when a little sleep would have been a more seasonable relaxation. Various methods are practised to drive them off or avoid them. We frequently made a fire at the door, and covered it with green leaves to make as much smoke as possible, and thereby to banish them from the neighbourhood; but the moment the smoke was dissipated they again made their appearance as numerous as flies in England on a summer day. Many persons make what are termed musquito hangings for their beds; these are constructed of laths strung together so closely as not to allow a space for them to pass through. They seldom are seen on the prairies, or indeed in any place remote from thick shady woods; thus some of our neighbours have been quite free from them, while we were tortured incessantly. We however had the advantage of being near fuel, a consideration of great importance in that country, especially as the soil of wood land is always more valuable than that of the prairies, and when cleared is likewise free from musquitoes. Having referred to the prairies, it may perhaps be necessary to be a little more explicit. Many persons in England have a wrong idea of the uncultivated lands in America, imagining they are all wood. This is by no means the case. In Illinois there are thousands of acres with not a tree upon it, but covered with a sort of strong wild grass, growing sometimes three or four feet high. These lands are termed prairies, and require only to be broken up with a prairie plough, and they become at once fine arable land. As I before intimated,
34this kind of land, though the soonest cultivated, is not the most productive being, as the farmers term it, of a stronger quality than the other. The soil of both prairies and woodland is quite black, probably owing to the vegetable matter, which for ages has decayed thereon. At the season of the year now under notice, these prairies present to the eye a most charming appearance. Let the reader imagine himself by the side of a rich meadow, or fine grass plain several miles in diameter, decked with myriads of flowers of a most gorgeous and varied description, and he will have before his mind a pretty correct representation of one of these prairies. Nothing can surpass in richness of colour, or beauty of formation many of the flowers which are found in the most liberal profusion on these extensive and untrodden wilds. The naturalist would here meet with abundance of materials for his genius to arrange, while the poet, reminded of his elegies, would perceive how —
And waste its sweetness on the desert air."
In contrasting the hues of flowers grown in America with those in England, I must acknowledge that the former country presents the more splendid; but if they are superior in colour, they are much inferior in odour. Perhaps the superabundance of light and heat, which produces such fine colour, is prejudicial to the production of odoriferous plants, as any thing at all approaching the fragrance of the honey suckle or sweet briar, I never witnessed in America. In the woody districts, the trees most commonly met with are the oak, ichory, walnut and sugar maple, besides a great deal of underwood and wild fruit trees of the plum family. As all these grow in a wild state, it is not to be supposed that the trees are as numerous as they are in the plantations of this country. The strong timber trees grow at various distances from each other, sometimes being as near to each other as they can possibly grow, at others twenty or thirty yards apart. They not only vary considerably in this respect, but also in magnitude and age. Not a few are to be found in the last stage of decay, their patriarchal dignity gradually submitting to the all-subduing influence of time. Numbers more are quite hollow, in which bees, owls, and rabbits severally find shelter and propagate their species. Every thing here bears the mark of ancient undisturbed repose. The golden age still appears, and when the woodman with his axe enters these territories for the first time, he cannot resist the impression that he is about to commit a trespass on the virgin loveliness of nature, that he is going to bring into captivity what has been free for centuries. In resuming the thread of my narrative, I have to state, that as soon as we had sown our Indian corn, and planted a few potatoes, we began to prepare for taking in more land, although we had four or five acres unsown of that which Mr. Oakes had broken up. We hoped, nevertheless, that before another season we should be able to plough and sow in a regular manner. Accordingly my husband worked hard every day with his grubbing hoe and axe, tearing up the roots of underwood and cutting down some of the largest trees. When trees are cut down in America, as little regard is
35paid to the timber, they do not cut them off level with the ground as in England, but about three feet from it. The remaining part is burnt after it has been exposed to the sun's rays a few months. Many trees however are allowed to remain standing, after the bark has been cut, to cause them to die. In this state they remain even after the land is sown, for, being destitute of foliage, they do no harm to the crop.
While my husband was thus engaged I frequently went to him, and, assisted by our little boy, gathered the most portable pieces of brushwood, and took them to our cabin to be ready for fuel; thus, by continued exertions, we had cleared three or four acres by the end of May, and made a fence half round the piece we intended to enclose as our next field, consisting of about eight acres. Before this time our old mare had foaled, and as we partly expected, only survived that event a few weeks. Near our house there is a sort of rivulet, termed in Illinois a branch, in which one Sunday evening, after we had walked ten miles in going to and from the chapel, we found her laid; we got her out with the help of a rope, and after a while she appeared little worse; a week or two afterwards, however, her foal came by itself neighing to our door; we were immediately assured that something had befallen its mother, and set out in search of her, whither the foal, going before, led us as naturally as if it had been endowed with reason; she had again fallen into the branch, and was quite dead. The foal, notwithstanding its loss, throve very well, and subsequently became a very valuable brood mare.
In the month of June, notwithstanding our economy, we were obliged to purchase some meal on credit. Mr. Varley, the storekeeper, very willingly allowed us to have as much as we wanted, and indeed offered to sell us anything else on the same terms. His miller, however, as soon as he knew we were not giving ready money, only partly filled the bushel, thereby making it dearer to us than before, and we dared not complain to his master for fear he should refuse it altogether. The debt we contracted was very small,—not a dollar—for which we had bread for the family not less than six weeks; the expiration of which brings us to the end of our first wheat harvest, a season conspicuous in my history on account of the severe trials I then experienced.
TOWARDS the end of June our three acres of wheat began to look ripe, and we consequently had to consider how we should reap it; we had no sickles, nor were any to be had under a dollar each; we therefore, self and husband, resolved to go to our friend Mr. B., who lent us two, for which we were thankful enough, although they were poor ones. As we were returning home, my husband had the misfortune to stumble over a log of wood, and having a sickle in his hand, he pitched upon the edge of it with his knee, and cut it severely. We were then a mile from home, and the wound bled profusely. I bound it up with a handkerchief, and after a little faintness he was able to proceed. The next day, on examining the cut, we found it to be more serious than we had imagined: the symptoms were also bad; instead of being warm and irritable, it was cold and numb. In vain did we apply lotions, it kept growing worse and worse. The following day it began to swell very much, and to be exceedingly painful at a distance from the cut. The pain took away his appetite for food, and symptoms of inflammation and fever became rapidly apparent. My situation requires no comment: I could not but perceive I was likely to lose my dearest earthly friend, and with him all visible means of supporting myself, or maintaining my family. I was almost driven to frenzy. Despair began to lay hold of me with his iron sinews; I longed to exchange situations with my husband; there was no one near to assist or encourage me. My eldest child alone manifested any signs of sympathy: the poor boy went up to his father's bed, and with affectionate and child-like simplicity said, ‘don't die, father, don't die.’ Meanwhile the swelling increased; my husband had taken nothing but a little coffee for two days. Here was a crisis: I saw a short time would determine whether I was to be reduced to a situation the most wretched imaginable, or see my husband restored to me again. The latter idea seemed to contain all I had in this world to cling to. I could not give it up. I fomented the swelling with increased diligence, till at length he began to perspire, and his leg to possess its wonted sensibility. A change for the better had evidently taken place, and by degrees all the bad symptoms disappeared. On perceiving this, I felt myself the happiest woman on earth, although my situation was still embarrassing. Our wheat was quite ripe, indeed almost ready to shake, and if not cut soon, would be lost. We had no means of hiring reapers, and my husband could not stir out, I
37was therefore obliged to begin myself; I took my eldest child into the field to assist me, and left the next in age to attend to their father and take care of the youngest, which was still unweaned. I worked as hard as my strength would allow; the weather was intolerably hot, so that I was almost melted. In little more than a week, however, we had it all cut down. Meanwhile my husband had continued to mend, and was now able to leave his bed and sit in a chair, or rather on a stool placed near the wall for support to his back, and made further comfortable with the help of a pillow or two. The wheat was still unhoused, and exposed to the rays of the burning sun, by which it was in danger of being dried so as to waste on the slightest movement. It was absolutely necessary that it should be gathered together forthwith. Having neither horses nor waggon, we here encountered another difficulty. The work, however, could not be postponed. With a little trouble I got two strong rods, upon which I placed a number of sheaves near one end of them; I then caused my little son to take hold of the lighter end, and in this manner we gathered together the whole of the three acres. My partner had by this time so far recovered as to be able to move about with the help of a strong staff, or crutch, and thus he came to the door to shew me how to place the sheaves in forming the stack. The reader may probably suppose I am endeavouring to magnify my own labours, when I tell him I reaped, carried home, and stacked our whole crop of wheat, consisting, as before stated, of three acres, with no other assistance than that of my little boy under ten years of age. My statements are nevertheless uncoloured facts, and what renders them still less credible, the work was performed in addition to the attendance necessarily required by my young family and sick husband, and during the hottest part of the year, in a climate notorious for excessive heat. I would not be understood to represent the climate of Illinois as greatly prejudicial to the health of English emigrants. My health had hitherto been much better there than in England, a circumstance which I attribute in part to the beneficial effects of the voyage, but still more to the difference in the state of the atmosphere between America and England. The reader must know that previous to leaving this country I was slightly affected with asthmatic symptoms, which entirely left me for a number of years after my arrival in America. A dry air is always allowed to be favourable to persons troubled with the above disease; and it is no less notorious that the atmosphere of England is comparatively moist and humid, its insular situation being probably a principal cause. Physical causes, however, I pretend not to understand; I merely refer to them because they seem to bear upon the facts I have to narrate, and because I deem it necessary to be precise and perspicuous on a subject of such importance to the emigrant as is the climate of the country to which his capabilities may be invited. The atmosphere of Illinois then is much drier than that of the British islands. This is apparent from the comparatively few rainy days that occur in that country: in summer the droughts are excessive and long, from which the corn crops sometimes suffer severely; and in winter, during the two coldest months, scarcely any rain falls. Spring
38and autumn are often very rainy; but, even then, the number of fine days is not less than those in England during the same season. When it does rain it falls in torrents, and is generally accompanied with thunder and lightning, as before stated; a circumstance which corroborates the statements above-named relative to the dryness of the air. A continental situation like that of Illinois must necessarily be affected with greater extremes of heat and cold than a country surrounded by water like Britain. The influence of the sun's rays in the latter place is considerably diminished by the process of evaporation, for which such facilities are offered where water abounds; while on the other hand the cold is less intense on account of the abundance of caloric given out by water to the superincumbent air, when the temperature of the latter descends below the freezing point. The striking difference between the climate of America and England therefore is, that the extremes of heat and cold are considerably greater in that country than in this; hence tobacco and cotton may be cultivated with success, though the climate in Illinois is scarcely hot enough for the latter; every farmer, however, cultivates tobacco for his own use, in the same manner as the peasants in this country grow cabbages and potatoes; it is sown in beds like onions, at the spring of the year, and though of all seeds apparently the slowest to manifest the vegetative principles, when it has begun to put forth its leaves it grows with unaccountable rapidity. At this period of its growth it is much infested with a species of green caterpillar of an enormous size, from whose ravages the plants require to be daily protected, or they would shortly disappear. When ripe its appearance is very much like that of the rhubarb cultivated in our cottage gardens in England after it has seeded, only the leaves of the tobacco plant are larger and not so heavy. In this state they are cut and dried in the sun a day or two, and afterwards gathered together to cause them to sweat, which gives them that peculiar fragrance common to tobacco. As a further illustration of the temperature of the climate, it may be remarked that melons, pumpkins, cucumbers and peaches ripen early without any assistance from art, The woods abound with wild plum-trees, for which the climate is nevertheless too hot, as they frequently wither on the trees before they are fully ripe, and are eaten by pigs, or remain to decay and fertilize the ground. Grapes, strawberries and raspberries likewise grow wild in great abundance; the settlers gather them near their houses, in order to make wine of them; but there are thousands of bushels left to decay where they grew, after birds and insects have devoured as many of them as they choose. The raspberries are of a different species from those grown in England; the bushes themselves are quite similar in appearance, and the flavour of the fruit not much different; but when the berries are ripe they are quite black like the fruit of the bramble. Of all the fruits that are met with in the woods, nuts are the most plentiful; hazels and filberts are found in all directions. During the first two years of our residence in that country my children gathered bushels of them, and even recently I have often been surprised that no bad consequences have ensued from the quantities they have eaten. There are two different
39kinds of walnut, termed the black and the white walnut, and indeed the ichory is considered as belonging to the same genus, but its fruit is different.
Notwithstanding the beauty and luxuriance of the vegetable productions of Illinois, the summary account here given being a mere sketch, the animal kingdom is still more remarkable for numbers and variety. The naturalist must not search for entertainment in the description about to be given: as a common and unscientific observer I saw and admired them, and as such alone I am able to describe them.
America is certainly and emphatically the country for the feathered tribe, whether numbers, variety, or beauty be the subject of special consideration; nor will any one wonder that they are so numerous when he considers the comparative safety with which they rear their young, and the abundance of food that must be found in a country highly productive, whose seeds and fruits are the undisputed property of the first finder. During the breeding season, their noise, I cannot call it music, is, in the woods, one continued gabble; as their species are so numerous, their tones possess every degree of hoarseness, chatter and chirp, that can possibly be conceived. To represent their performances in writing is a thing absolutely impossible, especially to persons accustomed to identify their vocal powers with something like music. Some idea of their noise may be gathered by imagining an assembly consisting of magpies, jays, and turkeys, together with a few of the minor species as the gold-finch, the spink, and the sparrow, all giving full play to their vocal energies, and each endeavouring to make his own favorite note as significant as possible; there is nothing of that fine flowing sweetness with which the "early lark" and "sooty blackbird" announce the approach of summer in this country. But if their voices like that of the peacock are offensive to the ear; like that majestic bird's their plumage is exceedingly beautiful. I must not be understood to include all kinds of birds met with in Illinois, in the description now given; one kind is completely black like the rook, and this sort is a downright pest to the ripe and ripening crops; assembling in flocks almost like a cloud, they require all the farmer's vigilance to prevent their flying away with the fruits of his industry. Of the parrot, the owl, and the jay families there are great numbers, but the humming bird is the most interesting little bird of any I notice, of which there are hundreds buzzing about during the summer season. As it would be out of keeping with the character of this work to describe the peculiar habits of the various classes of birds seen in America, I deem it unnecessary to give the names by which they are known among the unlettered inhabitants of Illinois, especially as those names are mostly provincial terms; notwithstanding they are so numerous there are very few that I could recognize as species common in my own country. In vain did I listen for the cuckoo at the spring of the year, and happy should I have been to see the tame confiding redbreast hopping about our door, but it never appeared. Proceed we next to notice another class of animals, which, though not as numerous as the one just described, are now by no means
40rare during warm weather in Illinois: snakes are the creatures now referred to, of which there are not only a great variety, but vast numbers of each species, many of which are exceedingly venomous. One kind called the black snake, alias the racer, is noticed for pursuing people who may chance to come near them during the breeding season; it is large and completely black, its bite is not venomous, nor does it attempt to pursue intruders, unless they shrink from its intimidating appearance, and even then it generally returns to its post as soon as it fancies it has driven them off; sometimes however, it will wrap round a person's legs, and if the individual in that situation attempts to fly, he is almost sure to fall; he may however, soon release himself with a small stick or a knife; as it is the only snake in America that will approach man without being previously irritated, it is fortunate that its bite is not venomous: one kind about the size of a small eel is able to raise itself nearly in a perpendicular direction; when struck it immediately appears to be broken or disjointed into three or four pieces not unlike the herb or weed termed foxtail, when its joints are disunited; a third called the copperhead has a most angry appearance, and its bite is venomous, but it usually endeavours to get away on the approach of man. The species are too numerous for me to attempt to enumerate them here; it seldom, happens that any one is injured by them, but as they are known to lurk in concealed situations, hollow trees, and some even among the branches, they cause people to be constantly on their guard when they have to enter situations favorable for them to lie in. The rattlesnake, however, is not to be despised, for although it is not so numerous as some of the other kinds, it is more dreaded than them all; this formidable foe never attacks man except in self-defence, and then its bite, if no antidote be taken, is speedily fatal. The usual medicine given to a person thus bitten, is a strong infusion of a herb called the rattlesnake's master. The rattle from which the reptile has its name, is situated at the end of its tail, and composed of thin hollow bones articulated so as to make a rattling noise when the animal moves, thereby warning other animals of its approach; the number of bones contained in the rattle varies according to its age, one being added every year, from which it appears to live about twelve years, as snakes are sometimes killed with that number of bones in the rattle; when about to strike an animal it coils itself up like the contraction, (&) to enable it to dart forward its head with greater rapidity, and without any part of its body touching the ground, except the tail, on which it supports itself during the time. This reptile is becoming less and less numerous, as none are allowed to escape when once observed. They are usually found in pairs, and often among the growing corn. A neighbour of ours was once bitten with one on which he had accidentally trodden. He killed it immediately afterwards, and then hastened to the nearest house, but before he could reach it he was obliged to hollow to make the occupiers know what was his misfortune, as he felt his tongue and limbs beginning to grow stiff; the antidote was immediately administered, but not before he had become insensible; he however, recovered. When an individual attacks
41these reptiles he should be cautious how he approaches them when in their favourite coiled position. When they are extended at length on the ground, they may be approached with safety, as they are then not able to dart forward their heads as they do when they attempt to inflict a wound. Insects are likewise numerous in America, and many of them of a larger size than any to be met with in England. There is a species of ant found on the prairies, about half the size of a working bee. In traversing these grounds, particularly in summer, a person will naturally feel inclined to rest himself occasionally, and may probably select for himself, as a seat, some little hillock, of which there are many. If he does, however, I will venture to assert he will be caught trespassing, and have to pay the smart too. The butterflies in America are really splendid, nothing can surpass them in design, depth of colouring, or in the delicacy with which their finely powdered wings are finished. I have sometimes observed in very hot weather, when I happened to throw to the door a little greasy or soapy water, that the place thus moistened has been covered in a few minutes with butterflies of the richest and most brilliant dress. All the hues that the prism can elicit from the "parent of colours," have been there manifested, and that with such a beautifully variegated combination, as to render imitation utterly impracticable. The plan proposed in this narrative requires that mention be made only of such objects as would come under the notice of common observers, whereby a tolerably correct idea of the general state of the country may be obtained. I cannot however close these succinct observations on insects, without noticing one which flies about during the evenings in summer, and emits a light considerably brighter than that of the glow worm. When I first beheld it, I was not aware of its existence. It was one evening as husband and I were returning from the chapel, on a road that was principally through an uncultivated piece of wooded land. As we were passing along, we observed in many places what we took to be sparks of fire dancing about most mysteriously. Our curiosity was excited not a little, but not knowing what to think, we dared not approach them, for fear they were connected with something super-human. Superstition certainly got hold of us, and we hastened home imagining some strange catastrophe was about to occur. On reaching home we found a neighbour waiting our arrival, to whom we related what we had witnessed. He smiled at our simplicity, and told us they were light bugs, the name they are known by in Illinois; fire-flies I believe is a more general term, which gave us no small satisfaction, as we had been much disturbed to know what such a prodigy could imply. A few pages back I attempted to describe the appearance of a winter night. I may now be allowed to make a few remarks on the peculiarities of a night in summer. As our situation in America is about fourteen degrees further south than Yorkshire, I scarcely need say that the shortest summer night there is longer than the shortest in England by two or three hours. In this country, as the shades of twilight gradually usher in the more sombre aspect of night a delightful silence seems to repose on the bosom of nature. Hence Milton: "Now came still evening
42on and twilight grey," &c. The reverse of this is nearer the truth in Illinois. It would be a burlesque on language for any one during a night in summer, to repeat Grey's admired line,—"All the air a solemn stillness holds." I have already stated that owls are very numerous, they are also very noisy during the night. There is another bird, however, that outdoes them in this respect. It is about the size of a lark, and has a loud voice, but only three notes, which it keeps continually repeating. It thus appears to keep crying: "Whip away," or "Whip poor Will," as some will have it. Hence one or other of these terms is the name of the bird, which I believe is common through all North America. Unceasing as are the noises made by these nocturnal performers, there is a species of frog, known as the bull-frog, whose voice completely drowns the preceding; it abounds in small creeks and ponds, of which there are many in some districts, though none near our farm. The moment this animal observes darkness approaching, it begins its tremendous croakings, which, as its name suggests, are more like the bellowing of a bull than the voice of a frog. Other animals might be mentioned with propriety, as being peculiar to that country, as the mink, the opossum, and the raccoon; but as these are fully described in works on natural history, I forbear to enlarge, after I have related the following little incident. The foot-print of the last-named animal is precisely like that which a little child, just able to walk, would make. There is the rounded heel, the hollow under the rise of the metatarsus, the toes, and toe nails, as exactly delineated as if it had been actually made with the foot of a child. This impression we observed before we knew anything about it. My husband's curiosity led him to trace it across a ploughed field, as he really thought these prints had been made either by fairies or the diminutive offspring of some concealed Indians, and was a long time before he could be persuaded they were made by a quadruped. If the reader consults a volume on natural history, he will find this animal classed among the plantigrada, which will partly account for the above circumstance. The continuation of my narrative presents my partner recovered from his lameness, and busy thrashing our wheat in the open air: we had a small barn, but as the ground is almost as hard as a boarded floor at the season I am now speaking of, the corn is often thrashed in the open air. Many farmers thrash as soon as harvest is over, and, without winnowing it, place it on a large heap, and cover it with a thick coat of straw and another of earth, as farmers preserve potatoes in England. In this state it will keep very well for several months if required. As the cattle lie out all the year round, the straw is of no use, they therefore burn it out of their way. The time had not yet arrived for us to practise this system of preserving corn; we wanted the full worth of our wheat, and that as soon as we could get. As we had no winnowing machine we were obliged to winnow with the wind, which, though a troublesome method, is frequently practised in Illinois, for the same reason as that which Induced us to practise it on this occasion. The farmers in that country are much troubled with a weed that grows amongst the wheat, and of which it
43is next to an impossibility to clear it. This was the first time we had anything to do with it. Its appearance when growing can scarcely be distinguished from wheat till it begins to ear; on this account it is called ‘cheat,’ and not undeservedly, as it sometimes stands on the ground as abundant as the crop itself, and yet it is so valueless, that even the poultry will not eat it. I have not seen anything in England that resembles it more nearly than the weeds termed by Yorkshire farmers droke and darnel. It is more like the former than the latter. Having thrashed and winnowed our wheat in the manner above described, our next consideration was how we were to sell it. The produce of the three acres might be about eighty bushels, one-fourth of which was but imperfectly cleared of cheat, and was therefore unsaleable. We had only five sacks, which we had taken with us from England, but these even we did not require, as we subsequently learnt the store-keepers were accustomed to furnish the settlers with bags for their corn. My husband took a specimen of wheat, which as it had been sown too sparingly on the ground was a fine sample. Mr. Varley offered half a dollar per bushel in money, or a few cents more in barter. We borrowed a waggon and a yoke of oxen of one of our neighbours, and carried to the store fifty bushels. The first thing we did was to settle our meal account; we next bought two pairs of shoes for self and husband, which by this time we wanted as we did other articles of apparel, which we knew we could conveniently procure. The truth is, we had intended to have a little more clothing, but finding the prices so extravagant, we felt compelled to abandon that intention. For a yard of common printed calico, they asked half a dollar, or a bushel of wheat, and proportionate prices for other goods. We gave ten bushels of wheat for the shoes. I may just remark that the prices are considerably lower at the present time for all kinds of wearables than they were then. Our next purchase was a plough, bought in hopes that we should, at some time, have cattle to draw it, as we were tired of the hoeing system. We also bought two tin milk bowls; these and the plough cost about twenty bushels. We obtained further a few pounds of coffee, and a little meal; the coffee cost us at the rate of a dollar for four pounds; and thus we laid out the greater part of our first crop of wheat. We had only reserved about twenty bushels for seed, besides a quantity imperfectly cleared of cheat, which was unfit either for sale or making bread. On balancing our account with Mr. Varley, we found we had to take about five dollars, which we received in paper money, specie being exceedingly scarce in Illinois. The interval between this time and the latter part of September, was spent in further clearing the field which we had before fenced somewhat more than half round. Our Indian corn was likely to be a failing crop, partly because it had been sown late, and partly for want of a plough it had been but imperfectly cultivated. The autumnal rains had now begun to fall, and while other people's corn was ripe, a great part of ours was quite green, and not likely to ripen before the frosts. The little that was ready, we cut, and made it into small stacks, to be ready for seed the ensuing spring. October arrived; it was the season for sowing wheat, and we were
44little better prepared than we had been the preceding spring; for although we had a plough we had no team. We could readily have hired one had we possessed the means. Five or six dollars were all the money we had, and we fully purposed to buy a pig or two with them, as we had been some weeks without any animal food, except a few fowls for which we had bartered one of our china tea-cups. Our inability to raise a team and sow our wheat, was a source of very great anxiety. The hoeing system had answered so indifferently that we felt determined, if possible to have it ploughed. We knew a Mr. Knowles who ploughed for hire; his house was about two miles from ours. My husband waited upon him and offered him one-fifth of the produce of eight acres for ploughing and harrowing it. Reward, it is said, sweetens labour: of this Mr. Knowles was conscious; but the idea of waiting for the reward till the ensuing harvest did not suit his genius: in short, he declined undertaking the work on any such terms. My husband was coming away almost in despair; but happening to look at his watch, Mr. Knowles accosted him in a tone of surprise that he should want any one to work on credit while he possessed such a watch as that, telling him at the same time, that he would plough and harrow the whole eight acres for it. I need scarcely say they immediately agreed, as the watch had been bought in England a year or two before for something less than a sovereign. We were thus relieved from our distressing anxiety, and got the wheat sown as conveniently as we could possibly wish. This acquaintance with Mr. Knowles led to a further bargain between him and my husband for three young pigs just taken in from the range; for which we paid him the small sum of three dollars. They were scarcely fat enough to kill; we therefore gave them a little unsaleable wheat which fed them very rapidly, so that in about a month's time they became nice pork, weighing between nine and ten stones each. By this time our little stock of cattle required to be fed daily with Indian corn, part of which was uncut, and what is worse some of it was unripe. That which had ripened was excellent fodder, the greater part of which we had cut: the little that remained in the field, being ripe, suffered no harm; whereas, the last sown, not ripening before the frosts came on, was much injured, the cattle would scarcely touch it. There is nothing peculiar in this: water, it is well known, expands when it is frozen. Hence, all sorts of succulent plants or soft grain, having their vessels filled with a watery or juicy substance, must of necessity, when frozen, experience a disarrangement of their parts, and have their vascular structure destroyed, and consequently be liable to putrefaction and mould. In the various transactions I have had to enumerate, I have overlooked our potato crop which was abundant; for although we had only planted half a rood, we had more than sufficient for our own use. The reader must be aware that no manure is used for any thing that is grown: the land is as fat as nature requires, and tillage would, in its present state, rather injure it than otherwise. We had not sown any turnips this year; they are generally sown in July, immediately after the wheat crop is reaped, and often on the land on which it has grown. In
45all probability we should have endeavoured to sow some, had not my husband at this time been an invalid. The first Sunday in November was the anniversary of our landing in America, for we have now gone through the principal events of our first year's residence in that country. It was further distinguished as being the day on which the yearly feast is held at the little village where we had lived in England. This circumstance, trifling as it is, had a tendency to bring to our recollection in a most vivid manner, bygone associations and endearments, the value of which we only discovered when they were lost. Does the reader ask for an explanation? Let him consider for a while our condition; and if experience has taught him anything of the nature of those feelings which the love of one's country inspires; if he knows even what emotions are kindled by being removed from old and congenial attachments, he will perceive we had reasons for being sad on the occasion here referred to. The difficulties and privations we had already endured were not forgotten. The tattered appearance of our children's clothes, compared with what they had worn in England, made an impression on our minds, which even patient endurance could not resist. We were again on the eve of a hard winter with less warm clothing to meet it, than we had the preceding winter by the wear of a twelvemonth. This was one of the gloomy days in our history. The previous winter we had been prevented from attending religious worship on account of distance, we were now prevented from another cause,—want of decent clothing. It was on this occasion that we perceived something more than poetry in the lines of Cowper:
In a moment I seem to be there;
But alas! recollection at hand
Soon hurries me back to despair."
There was however one cheering consideration: in all respects except clothing, we were better situated than we had been the foregoing season. We had four acres more of wheat sown this year than the year before; we were now in possession of a plough; our cattle had likewise increased in value; the cow had calved again, and the former calf had grown a fine-looking heifer, we therefore saw, after all, we were gaining ground. In accordance with my pretensions, I ought here to state that both I and husband had the ague very bad this month; happily not both at the same time. This complaint is too well known to require any description of it from me. It generally attacks new settlers at the end of their first summer, and, even afterwards. At the fall of the leaf it is by no means an uncommon complaint. As land becomes better cultivated and drained, this disease is less frequent. At the present time, notwithstanding its prevalence in autumn, it rarely proves fatal, except in instances where the constitution has manifested previous symptoms of decline, and like a withered leaf is ready to be blown down by the first fresh breeze that blows. The inhabitants have various specifics, real and imaginary: a weak infusion of common pot-herbs drunk hot appears to be as efficacious as anything. When the patient ceases to shake, the ague is said to be broken, and unless fever ensue, as it sometimes
46happens, he is in a short time quite well. After we had recovered, for a while nothing occurred worthy of note. As, in the winter previous, our chief employment consisted in attending to the cattle, preparing firewood, and splitting rails. As before, our cattle remained out day and night, generally resorting, during the latter, to some sheltered situation. About Christmas, a person with whom we had had several interviews named Mr. Vanderoozen, came to our house and wished us to buy two young steers and a milch cow. We replied we could not purchase them for want of money. "That reason," said he, "shall not prevent you: I am going to keep a shop at St. Louis, and shall often have to come up into the country, you may pay for them when it is convenient, meanwhile I shall expect interest for my money." At the time I am now speaking of, the usual interest paid for the loan of money was twenty-five per cent per annum. It has since very properly declined to twelve per cent. Having considered Mr. Vanderoozen's proposal, we felt inclined to accept it; the only impediment was in the failure of our Indian corn crop. By using the remainder of our unsaleable wheat, however, we presumed we should be able to winter them, and felt assured that when spring arrived they would be able to do well, and greatly add to our advantages. The bargain was accordingly struck: my husband gave him a promissory note for thirty dollars, with interest for the same at the same rate. We thus appeared to have increased our possessions, and endeavoured to brave our privations and the severity of the weather as well as we could. We were obliged, nevertheless, to economize our winter fodder, which was seen in the condition of our cattle; by degrees they began to lose their flesh, a circumstance which made us doubly anxious for the return of spring.
After much anxiety and unceasing diligence to preserve the health of our stock, the first of March arrived. In a fortnight more we expected there would be plenty of fresh grass in the wilds, and we consequently looked forward to the time with pleasure, little anticipating how sudden a check to our satisfaction we were about to receive. On the third of March, who should darken our door but Mr. Vanderoozen, who had, as he expressed himself, called upon us for the money we owed him; that is to say, the thirty dollars we had agreed to give him for the steers and cow. Thunderstruck at a request so unexpected and unreasonable, we expostulated with him on the terms of the agreement, and explained our inability to answer his demands. Unfortunately the note we had given him contained no intimation as to the time our creditor had allowed us. All our expostulations were unheeded; he withdrew, assuring us he would immediately make use of the means the law allowed him for obtaining his money. He was as good as his word; the following day an Esquire
47to our feelings nor circumstances; but how were we to raise the money? It is not so easy to raise money for cattle in Illinois as in England; besides ours were at that time looking ill, and would consequently be undervalued. Should an execution be issued our cattle would be driven to the appointed place for the sale of distrained goods, and sold by auction, be the price what it would. In all probability our whole stock thus sacrificed would be inadequate to the debt and expenses, which would place our very land in jeopardy. Now it was that we regretted having bought them on credit. Remorse the most pungent preyed on our heart-strings. The emaciated appearance of our cattle condemned our cupidity, and upbraided us with all our contrivances to economize their provender.
Meanwhile the time approached for us to answer the demands of our creditor, or submit to the process of the law. We had only one plan in view which appeared at all likely to avert the threatened calamity. Our friend Mr. B. had been privy to this speculation, and had commended our resolves. He had plenty of money in his possession, as he had made no heavy purchases since he obtained the remittance, and he was naturally thrifty. Two days before the time expired, my husband went to him and explained the conduct of Vanderoozen, requesting him either to buy some of our cattle or lend the money, for which ample interest should be paid. It is unpleasant to record this part of the conduct of our countryman, yet truth demands that I should say he refused to do either, alleging that he did not want any more cattle, nor did he like to lend his money. This refusal rendered our wretchedness complete. After my husband had heard his denial his feelings were too heavily laden for him to urge any more. He came home melancholy enough, without having made any reply to his refusal. I shall never forget his return that evening. During his absence my mind had been in a state of vacillation between hope and fear; but the moment I saw his countenance hope entirely fled. What kind of a night we experienced, those alone can conceive who have struggled earnestly and perseveringly with adversity without success. In vain did we extend our languid limbs on our homely couch. Spirits so disordered as ours, were beyond the powers of sleep to lull into forgetfulness. The entire labours of a twelve month were doomed to disappear. On other occasions when my spirits had been depressed, I had laid my cause before the Supreme Ruler, and found relief; but at this time I felt no disposition to look upward. We seemed despised and forsaken by all. In this state of mind we continued until morning, when a knock was heard at the door, to which my husband attended. Will the reader here believe my story? Shall I not rather be charged with fabrication? I can, however, tax no one with incredulity, inasmuch as I doubted my husband's assertion myself, when, returning from the door, he told me that Mr. B. had brought us the money, and gone away saying he could not rest any longer without lending it. This account I am aware has too much of the air of fiction, appears too nearly allied to the marvellous to obtain general credit. It might have been suppressed, but as I am prompted to regard it as an
48instance of the over-ruling power of that being "who maketh the wrath of man to praise him," I deem it to be my duty to record it as it occurred, and where it is now placed. The story is now easy to conclude: the following day, to the surprise of our creditor, we paid the money, and thereby put an end to the proceedings. We had no sooner settled this affair than we turned out our cattle into the woods, having previously marked them on the right ear. The sugar trees were now ready for tapping, and as we were anxious to pay Mr. B. as soon as we could, we resolved to make the best of them, especially as sugar is an article for which money can be easily obtained. We made incisions into a great many trees, and shortly had our large kettles boiling down the liquor; the greatest difficulty we experienced arose from an insufficiency of troughs to place at the bottom of the trees. We were obliged to cork up the holes of the greater part to prevent the liquor from wasting, while the rest alternately were running into the troughs. Notwithstanding this hindrance, we made at least three hundred and fifty pounds of sugar, which enabled us to return our friend fifteen dollars, half the sum we had borrowed. For the loan of the remainder my husband agreed to work for him five days in the year, till we could return it. The sugar this year did exceedingly well; for besides raising the above sum, we exchanged about forty pounds of it for a sow and a litter of pigs, which we kept near home till they knew the premises, and afterwards allowed them to run at large till autumn.
Thus, the reader will perceive our circumstances kept improving, as we had now two milch cows, two steers almost ready for the yoke, one young heifer, a calf, a fine young mare, and the family of pigs just named. In agricultural pursuits every season presents its peculiar task to the husbandman, and situated as we were that task was not a small one; the season for sowing Indian corn had again arrived, and again we were unprepared with a team. In the whole round of our agricultural labours nothing so much perplexed us as the sowing of our corn; we had only four acres this spring as we had sown eight with wheat, and all our other land was unbroken up; having no fixed plan in view and not knowing what means to adopt to get in the seed, we were agreeably surprised one morning to behold a person in the field busy ploughing; this was Mr. Burns, the person named on a previous occasion with whom we had formed an intimacy, or rather a friendship, which up to the time I am writing has only increased in degree and in value; in any country such a person as he would be valuable as a friend but in the thinly inhabited regions of the "far west," his worth cannot be fully set forth; his kindness towards us at this time is, however, a specimen; he and his wife had been at our house the previous week, and perceiving our coming difficulty, gave us the above seasonable boon; we thus saw the whole of the twelve acres systematically sown: the wheat was a fine thriving crop, we therefore began to feel ourselves more composed, and to use a good old English phrase "more at home;" hitherto we had no garden, my husband therefore dug up about a rood of fine dry land, and fenced it round with brush-work after the Yorkshire style of dead fencing; the greater part of it
49we planted with potatoes, and the rest with other kinds of vegetables, obtaining the seeds and plants from older settlers; before our wheat crop was ripe we had finished the fence round the new field, and rooted up the greater part of the underwood growing thereon; most of the stronger timbers we allowed to stand, having previously cut the bark on the trunk to prevent their growing; the rest we decapitated, and kindled fires round their stems to burn them away; this employment and the attending to our cattle, employed the whole of our time till the wheat harvest, and I assure the reader we were not idle: at the usual time, about the end of June, we began to cut our wheat, retaining the old sickles which we had borrowed the year before. Mr. B., who by this time had got married, intimated to my husband that he should require his help a few days, according to agreement for the loan of the money. As our corn was ripe and in that state requiring immediate attention, my husband tried to mow some of it down with an old scythe we had taken with us from England; this was tremendous heavy work, as the crop was abundant. Scarcely anything that occurred to us, taking into account the comparative insignificance of the article was more vexattious han the want of something with which to sharpen our tools; I have heard my husband say he would cheerfully work a fortnight for a good Yorkshire scythe-stone and a wrag-whetstone; the stone we used for that purpose was a very poor one, being a sort of flinty limestone which we found on the land; subsequently we met with another, much superior, apparently a piece of sandstone, but so fine as not to appear granular. Not knowing how soon Mr. B. might require assistance, my husband continued mowing, while I and our son used the sickles, thus cutting down in the whole about an acre per day, leaving from necessity the mown part abroad on the ground, to be taken up and bound into sheaves afterwards; we had finished within a day's work before Mr. B. required my husband's help; my son and I, therefore, were left to cut the remainder, which we did in two days; we then proceeded to take up the remainder and bind it into sheaves. While thus employed a circumstance occurred, which at the time was quite alarming; the excessive heat of the sun, added to another cause which the reader will understand when he is told that the September following I was confined of twins, made me feel much fatigued, and caused me to rest on a sheaf several times during a day: one time while thus seated, a large full-grown rattlesnake crawled idly out of the sheaf on which I was sitting; horrified with the sight, and scarcely knowing what I did, I seized my rake and struck it on the head several times, whereby it soon died; this event, although not of two minutes continuance, proved a lasting warning to me to be cautious, and even to this moment I never call it to mind without feelings of peculiar uneasiness; the sudden start made me so feeble for a while that I could not proceed with my labour. I however took care not to rest on a sheaf: shortly after, as we expected, we saw another, apparently in search of its mate, which I destroyed in like manner; when they were dead, my children took them home as trophies of triumph, to shew to their father in the evening, who
50at the recital of my story, joined with me in thanks to Heaven for preservation in such imminent danger; the following day my husband being with us, we expected to get through this part of our business in the harvest field; having nearly finished before dinner he took one of the children with him, during the noontide recess, to look at the fires kindled around the trees as before explained; trivial as this circumstance appears, its consequences were dreadful; by some means the little child set fire to her dress, which frightened her so much that she immediately ran among the sheaves which were lying on the ground just at hand; my husband, all intent to the situation of the girl, did not perceive that the sheaves were on a blaze till he had put out the fire on the child's clothes; he immediately gave an alarm, I ran to the door, but who can depict my feelings when I beheld our fine crop of wheat, the greatest treasure we possessed, and that on which our hopes principally rested for the speedy supplying of our various pressing necessities, blazing and cracking with prodigious vehemence. I need scarcely say every nerve was strained to its utmost to extinguish it; a small stream or branch ran at a short distance; guided by the first impulse of reason, we hastened thither immediately with the first vessels we could lay hold of, but although we ran both ways to the utmost of our strength, the flames spread further and further, we soon perceived this method would be unavailing.
Here was a trial for all our powers, mental and bodily. To extinguish the flames was impossible, the straw was so dry, and the heat became intolerable. There is generally a time for consideration, and a time for active labour. It was not so here, while we were considering our property was burning, and that with a speed indescribable. Directed, I cannot but think by Providence, we hit upon a plan which promised success. This was to make a separation between the side that was on fire and the other. It was no sooner conceived than we began to effect it. We removed the sheaves with all the expedition in our power to cut off all communication with the bulk of the crop. As much as we were able, we removed to the further side: but to save the side in question, we were obliged, from want of strength, to throw some to the devouring element. A division was at last happily completed, and the vacant space was too wide for the flames to cross, although in some instances they appeared to bound from one sheaf to another. Want of additional fuel alone extinguished the flames. Not a particle of combustible matter was left unconsumed where the fire had raged; it was one entire plain of smouldering black ashes, we thus lost about an acre and had it not been for one apparently insignificant circumstance, the whole would have been inevitably lost: the fire prevailed only where the wheat had been mown, had it once obtained possession of the long shorn stubble, all our attempts would have ended in woeful disappointment, as it was, in our situation the loss was no trifle, yet the uppermost emotions in our minds were rather those of pleasure than of pain, and with sufficient reason; we had seven acres remaining, whereas, half-an-hour before we had feared it was all lost. After we were fully assured the fire was out we sat
51down and wept; but our tears were, if I may use the expression, tears of thanksgiving. We called to mind the various difficulties through which we had successfully struggled, and we looked upon this as another pledge of ultimate success. We may indeed date the commencement of a moderately comfortable existence from this occurrence. The wheat was very fine indeed, but, as before, mixed with cheat; we had about two hundred and twenty bushels, forty of which were unsaleable on account of this troublesome weed. It is unnecessary to trouble the reader with all the particulars of our future proceedings, as it would be a repetition of customs and exercises I have already described.
Having been tolerably minute in detailing our various transactions and difficulties for nearly two years, till, as the reader has seen, our narrative begins to wear a brighter aspect, it will now be sufficient for the purpose here contemplated to give a sketch of the most prominent features of our future proceedings: we purchased several articles of wearing apparel with our wheat, paid off a small account for salt, and obtained gearing for a yoke of oxen, purposing to plough our land this fall with young oxen bought of Vanderoozen, besides supplying our immediate wants in clothing, which we did only sparingly, we were enabled to leave in the hands of Mr. Varley, forty dollars, for which he agreed to pay us interest if we allowed it to remain in his hands six months. We should have paid Mr. B., but as my husband had worked for him five days we considered it as our own to the end of the year. There was one trivial advantage in our wheat taking fire; we intended to sow an acre of turnips, and this part having no stubble on, it was the part we selected as being the most ready for the plough. We engaged Mr. Knowles to plough the land, giving him three dollars for his labour. We made a further arrangement with this gentleman to plough our late enclosed field with his prairie plough at the fall of the leaf, and in the meantime we endeavoured to cleanse of roots the part unfinished; it is exceedingly heavy work to break up the land with this plough, requiring four yoke of oxen to draw it; we paid him four dollars per acre for doing it. According to our intentions we yoked our two young steers to plough the land for wheat, our kind friend Mr. Burns, voluntarily spending the first day with us to give my husband a little instruction relative to driving and gearing them. They served our purpose very well, which gave us unspeakable pleasure and satisfaction; nor did we value this advantage unduly, considering the anxieties we had felt on former occasions for want of it. During the summer, our cattle throve very well; the cow we purchased of Vanderoozen had calved again, and our other cow and the heifer were both near calving. Cattle begin to breed much sooner in Illinois than in England; this may partly be attributed to the climate, which causes them to grow to maturity sooner in that country than in this; another reason is, being allowed to range at large during summer, where cattle of both sexes abound, the farmer has no means of preventing this circumstance. We have before noticed that it is customary for the farmers to kill as many of their hogs and horned cattle at the fall of the leaf, as they do not intend to keep
52over winter. They are often in excellent condition when they come up, not exactly what an English butcher would call prime beef. Hogs are scarcely fat enough to be killed, they are usually served with a little corn a few weeks after they have ceased to range, and thereby become very good bacon. Fat cattle is a source of income to the farmer, from which we had hitherto derived no benefit, nor at present had we ought but our pigs which we purposed to kill, and of these we had not sufficient to offer any for sale, as we wished to keep some over winter to breed the ensuing season.
The interval between this and the following autumn contained nothing deserving particular note. We sowed the new field with Indian corn. It was readily ploughed, having been broken up as before stated the previous fall, and exposed to the frosts during winter. The weather was too hot during the sugar season, which prevented our realizing as much from that article as we had done the foregoing year. It however enabled us to pay Mr. B. the money we owed him without entirely exhausting our little fund of reserve. After reaping our wheat this season, our neighbour, Mr. Paddock, expressed a wish to sell us the pre-emption right to his land. Like many persons in Illinois, this individual wanted industry, as he rarely worked more than half of his time. He had been more than three years on it, and would consequently lose all right to it in a short time, unless he paid the government demands—one hundred dollars, before the period expired. Notwithstanding his love of ease, he was not without the means to pay for it; but preferred, as he said, a change, and intended to migrate to another unimproved situation, and there spend four years, or perhaps longer, if no one thwarted his interests. As his land was contiguous to ours on one point, we thought it would be a good speculation to purchase it, especially as the price he set upon the improvement was very moderate. He had fourteen or fifteen acres broken up, besides the house, which was a tolerably good one of the kind. He valued his labour at fifty dollars, and offered to receive payment in either cattle or wheat at a fair price. We hesitated a long time before we decided, foreseeing that unless we paid for it at the land office the succeeding spring, we should be liable to lose it. We however finally determined to have it, and. as our cattle had again done well, we gave him a good cow, a heifer, and seventy bushels of wheat, which he disposed of at his pleasure. Mr. Paddock, after this, speedily vacated the house, wishing to erect another before the frosts should set in. The only instrument we received as a proof of the bargain, was the pre-emption certificate, which Mr. Paddock had obtained from the recording office, endorsed with his name, ratifying the agreement. This was, however, sufficient testimony. One day shortly after, a Mr. Carr, hearing that Paddock had removed, came to his late possessions and found my husband repairing a fence. He seemed to interest himself very much in the situation, and asked several questions respecting the pre-emption right, &c. His questions were evaded as well as civility would allow. They, however, served to premonish us that Mr. Carr had some sinister plans affecting that property, and we knew that if he took possession of the house it would be a very troublesome affair.
Though these considerations were based only on conjecture, the disreputable character of Mr. Carr, added to his suspicious manner, gave them much of the force of reality. Perplexed with these ideas, we scarcely knew what course to adopt. At one time we thought it advisable to set fire to the house and burn it down; then again we wished it not to be known that we feared for its safety; besides it would be very useful to keep farming implements in, or it would serve as a piggery or sheep cot if we wanted. We would have gone immediately to the land office and paid for it, if we had possessed sufficient money; we expected, however, our sugar-orchard would make up the deficit the following spring. To quiet our apprehensions in the present instance, our only feasible method appeared to be, that we should take possession of the house ourselves. But here was another obstacle: it was impossible that we could leave our present establishment, on account of our cattle and dairy being kept there. We found we should be obliged to divide our family, and have one part at Mr. Paddock's late residence and the other at our own. My husband would have cheerfully gone to the newly purchased situation, had not his presence and services at home among the cattle been indispensable. It evidently therefore became my duty to undertake the unpleasant task of leaving home, to occupy a house which we feared an unprincipled intruder wished to inhabit. I had however grown accustomed to hardships even more severe than this. I took with me our two youngest children, something with which to warm our food, and a bed. As the house was only half a mile from our own, I frequently saw the other parts of the family during the day; but the nights seemed dreary and long. For a few days nobody came near us, and I would have gladly hoped our fears were groundless. They eventually proved but too true, as the following account sufficiently manifests. One afternoon, after I had been living in this manner about a week, a person drove a clumsy waggon to the door, containing a little furniture, a woman, and two children. I shut the door, and endeavoured to fasten the latch, there being no lock. But the man, who I afterwards learnt was Mr. Carr, quickly forced it open, and bidding his wife walk in, said to her,-well, my dear, this is our house: how do you like it? without seeming to notice me in the least. He then carried in their furniture, and then, for the first time, found leisure to speak to me. He told me they could do without my company pretty well, and wished me to be a good neighbour and go home. There were two rooms; I took my bed and other articles into the other which was unoccupied, and felt very anxious to see my husband. He came in the evening, and saw what had occurred, Mr. Carr held up a paper as a defiance, and told him that it was the certificate obtained at the land office, Quincy, as a title to the estate. We were assured he could not have, purchased it legally; and we even doubted that he had paid for it at all. When my husband attempted to enter the house, Mr. Carr shut the door, and resisted with all his force; but being inferior in strength, admittance was obtained. On perceiving us engaged in a whispered conversation, he intimated that if we intended to spend the night in his house, he would go and make
54use of ours, to which we made no reply. The result of our deliberation was, that my husband should ride over to Quincy, a distance of fifty miles, take the pre-emption certificate with him, and ascertain whether through perjury he had purchased the land. Shortly after, my husband went home, and on his arrival found Mr. Carr, whom, as I afterwards learnt, he quickly made scamper. Next morning he called with a quantity of provisions, and took leave of me for his journey, which would take him three days; no one but myself knowing the purport of his leaving home. It was most uncomfortable for me to be thus left with only two little children under the same roof with a family whose sentiments towards me were the most unfriendly imaginable, and whose character stood assuredly not very high for probity. In the fullest and worst sense of the word, I was a prisoner, not daring to leave the room, and exposed to the jeers and taunts of a malicious man who left no means untried, short of personal violence, to expel me from the house; telling me my husband had sent me there to get rid of me, with a thousand other fabricated and tantalizing remarks. The third day, which was the Sabbath, having sent for my Bible, I endeavoured to solace myself by perusing its sacred pages. This made him more furious than ever; uttering the most blasphemous imprecations, he vowed ‘he would be both rid of me, and my cursed religion before long.’ About ten in the forenoon, two or three of his friends came to see him, who, finding or knowing how matters stood, assisted him in his attempts to deride me. I really thought I now must surrender, and had it not been for the man's wife, who checked their scorn, I am apt to think I should have been obliged to withdraw. After dinner my situation took a favourable turn. By some means or other many of our neighbours having learnt where I was and on what account, came to the house to see me. For a while my keeper refused admittance to all, till by and by there was quite a crowd at the door. I conversed with some females whom I knew through an aperture in the wall, which served for a window; and as many of them wished to enter, a number of men favourable to our interests told my disappointed persecutor if he did not allow the females to visit me, they would convince him he was no master. Awed by this declaration, he opened the door and the house was immediately filled, Mr. Carr and his party appearing completely nonplused. And, so strangely had matters changed, that religious worship was held in the place that evening, suggested by a few pious friends, who seeing my Bible, had thought it their duty to propose it. This was too much for Mr. Carr; he entirely left the premises during service. Towards nightfall the arrival of my husband was announced, who was much surprised to find me so well attended. He told Mr. Carr, in the presence of the persons congregated, where he had been, and how his perjury was detected. He likewise gave him to understand that he would probably find he had acted imprudently as well as wickedly. But the most agreeable part of the intelligence to me was, that there was no necessity for me to remain any longer in the house. I therefore very willingly left it and accompanied my husband to our own habitation, having first thanked my friends for their kind
55interference and regard. The sum of the particulars is, that Mr. Carr had paid for the land, having previously sworn there was no improvement on it; although a pre-emption certificate had been obtained at the recording office, Pittsfield. Of course the purchase was illegal, and Carr liable to a heavy penalty. The following morning, we learnt our firmness had acted powerfully on the mind of our opponent, as his wife called upon us to say that her husband was willing to make a compromise, and would either pay us for our claims on the estate or sell his certificate. This proposal required some consideration; we therefore gave her no definite answer, but told her if her husband wished to have an interview with us, notwithstanding his base conduct, we would treat him with civility. In the meantime, we considered it best to sell our pre-emption right, if he would produce the money, as we knew we could not buy his certificate at that time. In a day or two our opponent waited upon us wishing to have us pacified, as he knew he had acted criminally. We told him we would allow him peaceable possession on the payment of eighty dollars for the improvement, which he agreed to pay, and shortly afterwards the affair was settled, eventually to our advantage, though it cost us some anguish of mind. The peculiarity of the American law respecting the purchase of land, although framed originally with the view of assisting new settlers, is not infrequently a source of strife; at the present time there are many persons who have cultivated land for numbers of years, without paying anything for it; and there is no means of knowing, except by applying at the land office. Should, however, this counsel escape them, some one would be sure to go and purchase it, or even reap some of the corn when ripe, the original cultivator having no legal power to prevent them.
There is another peculiar clause in these laws respecting original rights; I refer to the erection of mills. I have before stated that water mills are the most common; the reason of this is obvious. When, therefore, a person purchases a section of land, it is his interest to examine whether there is a mill-seat on any stream that may run through it; if there is, he must apply to the recording office to have it "condemned." This prevents any other person from erecting a mill within a certain distance; I believe two miles. If, however, after two years the site is not built upon, the owner loses his prerogative. This law caused a piece of knavery to be practised upon us; the branch running through our farm had a very good site on it for a mill; some of our friends advised us to get it condemned; we did so, rather with a view of selling the site than of erecting a mill ourselves. About a year and a half afterwards, a person called upon us named Phillips, the identical person at whose house we had spent the first night in Illinois, with a view of buying it; after a little deliberation we sold it to him for one hundred and fifty dollars; not having cash by him, as he said, he would call again in a short time and pay for it; my husband desired to have the agreement drawn up in a proper form, but as Mr. Phillips averred his word was his surest bond it was omitted. He, however, proved a villain and the tool of another; for, by continuing to evade payment
56by specious promises, he contrived to keep us in suspense till the two years had expired, when another person, his employer, immediately began to erect a mill very near our farm; thus were we defrauded of our right to be millers. Perhaps the foregoing incidents may place the inhabitants of the western world in an unfavourable light; as a few remarks appear, therefore, to be called for, not indeed to unsay what has been said, "facts are stubborn things;" but to serve as an explanation of the occurrences above narrated. It must be borne in mind that ignorance is a predominant feature in their character, indeed it can hardly be otherwise; not that they are less gifted than the Europeans from whom they have originated, but because their opportunities for cultivating their minds are so limited; besides, their pursuits and manner of living do not require much intellectual training; a really learned man would be in solitude amongst them, and his talents, like the vaticinating genius of an ill-fated Cassandra, unappreciated or unperceived. The American government has, indeed, very humanely appropriated a certain portion of land for the maintenance of schools through the length and breadth of the country; this endowment naturally varies with the value of the land. In the States where the land has become more valuable by an increased population, it is pretty good, and consequently commands men of talent; but in the remoter regions there are numberless school allotments for which no candidate could be found. In Illinois the teachers of these endowed schools, and there are few of any other class, except in large towns, do not assuredly make great pretensions to literary distinction. Happening to be one of a party at the examination of a candidate for the school-land near our house, I was surprised to see how easily the bonus was obtained; the reader will perhaps smile when he is told that the spelling book was the only standard by which his qualifications were tested; what may be expected from the pupils of such masters is left for the arithmetical capabilities of the reader to determine. I may, however, remark, that were it not for the influx of European emigrants and settlers from the more eastern states, all traces of a scientific nature would very soon disappear.
I have introduced this trait of character with a view to qualify the opinions which some of the foregoing facts might give rise to. In human nature, all the world over, there are certain bold mental and moral features, which, under similar training, seldom fail to shew themselves. I would by no means be understood to imply that ignorance and dishonesty are synonymous terms, or that an acquaintance with the arts and sciences prevents a person from being a knave. All that is here meant is included in the well-known statistical fact, that crime is the most prevalent where the attainments of society are of the lowest order. This is a truth which modern investigation has fully established, although the ancients were not ignorant concerning it.
Emollet mores, nec sinit esse feros."
The influence of Christianity on the morals of mankind is considered sufficient without the aid of education to restrain vicious
57propensities. True Christianity practically enjoyed, must, I am persuaded, make its possessor a good man and a good citizen. But I am equally certain that the blessings that accrue to society thence arising, bear a direct proportion to the state, as to intelligence, in which that society is found. For proofs of this assertion, I refer not to the experience of times gone by, when
And the monks finished what the Goths began."
I intend rather to make good my position by a short account of the religious peculiarities of the people whose character I am attempting to pourtray. Prior to leaving England, I had been for nearly twenty years a member of the Wesleyan Methodist Society, and consequently felt wishful, as soon as our circumstances would allow, to join the religious body called the Methodists in that country. I attended a class meeting held in a house about two miles from our residence; but the manner in which it was conducted was by no means congenial to my views and sentiments. The company being assembled and seated, the one acting as leader, rose from his seat, which was a signal for the others to do the same. A sort of circle or ring was then immediately formed, by the whole assembly taking hold of hands, and capering about the house surprisingly. Their gesture could not be called dancing, and yet no term that I can employ describes it better. This done, worship commenced with extempore prayer, not indeed in language or style the best selected, but with this I have nothing to do. I have no right to question the sincerity of the individual, and if his taste differed from mine, it is no proof that his was wrong. The following part of the service was exceedingly exceptionable. All the persons present being again seated, an individual started from his seat, exclaiming in a loud and frantic shriek "I feel it," meaning what is commonly termed among them the power of God. His motions, which appeared half convulsive, were observed with animated joy by the rest till he fell apparently stiff upon the floor, where he lay unmolested a short time, and then resumed his seat. Others were affected in a similar manner, only in some instances the power of speech was not suspended, as in this, by the vehemence of enthusiasm, for I cannot give it a more moderate name. Finding in this mode of worship little that I could really respect, I resolved not long afterwards to absent myself from them altogether. I found moreover that some of the most rapturous members were far from being exemplary in their conduct, practically considered. As to their other forms of religious worship I have few remarks to offer. The Americans are fond of the word liberty; it is indeed the burden of their song, then glory, and their pride. In some respects this is praiseworthy—an essential ingredient in national honour and national greatness; but in my opinion it is carried too far when it enters the sanctuary It may be pleasant to hear of religious bodies worshipping under their own vine and fig tree, in the manner best adapted to their views and feelings. Views and feelings, it is well known, are dependent on educational precepts and original impressions. These therefore must vary, and experience shews they do vary proportionally to the endowments
58or discipline of the individual. And yet religion is only one, the gospel is only one; and consequently no two conflicting creeds can be both right. How far a person's private judgment ought to be at liberty to originate, select, or improve modes of faith and worship, I pretend not to determine. If it be a privilege which all classes of the community may claim with propriety, no consequences can be more natural than those which have hitherto thence arisen, viz: the continual appearance of new sects or denominations. Either from constitutional peculiarity or educational bias, the minds of mankind possess faculties for thinking and feeling too widely different for them ever to be consentaneous, especially in matters where much is left imperfectly defined, probably as a test of obedience and faith. I have been led into this digression, because, on hearing some of the preachers in Illinois, I have often thought them out of their place when they have been attempting to substantiate whimsies of their own, rather than truths fairly deduced from the Word of God. The fact is, too little regard is paid either to the fitness of the preacher or the sanctity of the office. If an individual's inclinations prompt him to become a preacher little or no further explanation is demanded. This, of course, can only be understood to refer to the thinly inhabited districts, where, I assure the reader, it is not necessary to be very fastidious, in order to find ample reason for doubting whether, under the name of religious worship, there is not a mixture of superstition and unhallowed excitement. Besides the usual Sabbath observances, camp meetings are frequently held in the open air. These are commonly termed two-day meetings, though they are frequently kept up the greater part of the week. They are attended by persons of different denominations, and conducted in a very irregular manner; one part of the assembly being on their knees, while another is listening to an exhortation from one of the preachers.
It is now requisite that I should once more resume my narrative. The reader is aware I do not pretend to preserve it unbroken to the present time. The greatest difficulties incident to emigrants, commonly occur at the commencement of their enterprising career; what our beginning was, has been explained in detail; it remains, therefore, only to describe our present condition. Before I can properly effect this purpose, it will be necessary to state the particulars of that event which induced me, once more, to visit the shores of Old England; "my own sweet native earth." Mr. B., the reader has been informed, got married about four years after our arrival; being an industrious and frugal man, his affairs kept continually improving; he put out, as loans, several hundred dollars, for which he received good interest: his cattle, also, was numerous, from which he obtained a good livelihood, by keeping under the plough as much land as grew them provender for winter. He lived, however, only a few years; I shall never forget, poor man, the last time he was at our house. I was rather unwell; after seeing me he went round our farm with my husband, and then called in again to bid me good evening, saying, he hoped I should be better when he came again; but "how frail at best is dying man;'' that very night he began
59in the typhus fever, which terminated his earthly existence in a few days; he died childless and without will. Being in regular correspondence with my children in England, although I have till now felt it my duty to be silent on that subject, lest the reader should be entirely bewildered with the recital of anxieties arising from so many sources, I sent them an account of his death, and wished them to name it to his brother; this being done, the latter, who has a large family in England, and is consequently anxious to better his condition, took it into his head to visit the deceased's widow in Amenca, hoping to become entitled to some of his property; accordingly he left his family to take care of his home, and in company with another person wishful to emigrate, sailed for New Orleans early in the present year. Neither we, nor Mr, B.'s widow, were aware of his coming; we were all taken by surprise; well do I remember the first appearance of these two Yorkshiremen, who had agreed to introduce themselves as strangers. Little did we think when we saw them rambling in our farm like two incurious travellers, that they were objects of such interest to us as they proved to be; self and husband were in the fields when they found us. I fancied I perceived a likeness of the Mr. B., in one of them, and challenged him as his brother; I was right: silence confirmed the conjecture, and we immediately invited them into the house, and treated them with good Old English hospitality, eagerly devouring all the tidings we could elicit from them. I dare say we were thought tediously inquisitive, as we kept our guests in talk till after midnight, before we allowed them to retire. The following day was spent in looking over our farm, and as the reader has been made acquainted with our difficulties, it is but just that he should know how we were situated on this occasion. In the first instance I may state that the house we at present occupy has been recently erected, and though in externals there is nothing to boast of, it is much superior to the one we occupied during former years. The situation itself is more airy and open. Our furniture is also more in accordance with modern times than that we occupied at the commencement of our career. The three-footed stools which then served as our ordinary seats, have long since been banished the house, and designated with the humble title of milking stools; and in short our house has been entirely refurnished, and useful articles of various kinds have been procured. It is however not so much either in the house or its furniture that our success manifests itself: were these to be made the principal objects by which possessions are estimated, there are after all few cottagers in England that would not be on an equality with us, with this exception, theirs are generally rented, while ours is our own freehold. I may further observe, with reference to the furniture of our house, that we have for many years had abundance, and I might say a superabundance of those essentials of housekeeping, which, if not the most ornamental in a sitting room, are not the least valuable in a family; that is to say, we have known no lack of good food, such as beef, pork, butter, fowls, eggs, milk, flour, and fruits, all of which we have, as Yorkshire farmers say, within ourselves; but as I intimated before, our out-door possessions
60were the objects that chiefly engaged the attention of our guests. At this time we had at least twenty head of horned cattle, of which we kill or sell off some at every autumn; we have seven horses, including one or two foals; besides pigs, sheep, and poultry, the number of which I am not able to state as they keep continually breeding, and are never to be seen altogether. Our land, which is of excellent quality and very productive, pleased our visitants very much, who went round the greater part of it, although it extends to a great distance from our house, as we have by purchases made at sundry times three hundred and sixty acres, more than half of which is cultivated. Not wishing to manage the whole ourselves, we have two small farms let off, for which we receive as rent a dollar an acre. It is not difficult to let land broken up at the above rate. Many who do not possess the means for purchasing land, are glad to rent a few acres on which to grow provender for their cattle during winter, and food for themselves. I wish to make no boast of our possessions; but having told the difficulties we experienced at our commencement, I ought in fairness to state what our success has been; I do this and no more; the lapse of a dozen years has wonderfully changed the appearance of things. We have seen a neighbourhood rise around us; and in some situations, where at our first coming, everything appeared in its native wildness, small villages have now begun to rise. Means of comfort are now within our reach. We remember the time when we knew not where to apply for an article if at all out of daily use; but by the increase of population, we can now easily obtain anything we require, either as food, physic, or clothing, and were we disposed to give up labour, we could live very comfortably on the fruits of our former toil. One thing I would notice as a cause of our ultimate prosperity, is, that having a family, we have been greatly assisted in the culture of our land, without having so much to hire as we should otherwise have been obliged. Were I asked what is my opinion respecting emigration, I would refer the enquirer to the foregoing narrative; here are facts, let him consider and judge for himself. If our success has been ultimately greater than at one time we anticipated, or even than that of many of our neighbours, as indeed it has, it must be borne in mind that our industry and perseverance have been unremitting. If our cattle and lands have kept increasing, that increase is but the reward for the numberless anxieties we have experienced, and the privations we have undergone. Few would undertake the latter to secure the former.
Before concluding my narrative, I beg to state that I do not sympathize with those who assert that to leave one's country and become an emigrant, implies a want of patriotism. There are a few facts bearing on this question which I may be allowed to mention. Is not, I would ask, the population of the United Kingdom as great at the present time as its means can comfortably support and employ, and if so, how would the mother country be able to maintain the millions now in America, that have sprung from her?
The soil and mineral productions of America are of the most valuable character;—rich in all that is calculated to make a community
61great, independent, and happy. The same all-bountiful parent that has given to Great Britain her vast resources, whereby her densely peopled towns, and villages scattered over a thousand hills derive subsistence, has been at work in America. Looking at the question in its more enlarged and true character, assuming that the entire earth is under the dominion of man, how can we suppose that some parts of England, whose natural character is sterility, should be brought under a barely remunerating culture, while there are millions of acres elsewhere, as productive as any soil on which the common orb of day has shone, still a wild uninhabited wilderness. These are questions to which time is giving and must give a proper answer, and in so doing the mother country itself will be no loser.
The greatness of England, it has been long understood, is dependent upon its manufactures and commerce, and if so, I would further ask what country has contributed so much to foster those manufactures and support that commerce as the United States of America? Thinking and feeling like one that is proud of her relation to England and that loves her own country, I consider it no disgrace to the British nation that I have travelled thousands of miles in America, from New Orleans to Illinois, and then thence on the Ohio by Cincinnati and Philadelphia to New York on my way home, that I have visited cities, some of which already number hundreds of thousands of inhabitants, and never found a place where using my own English tongue, I had any difficulty in making myself understood or of comprehending all I heard spoken. But to complete my narrative. The object of one of our guests, as already explained, was to settle in the country. Not having sufficient money to establish himself as an occupier of land, he became a day-labourer with immediate employment. Being entirely unacquainted with the method of farming as practised in Illinois, his first wages were only fourteen dollars per month and his board. With this he appeared satisfied, and said he found things better than he anticipated. As to Mr. B.'s brother, his purpose was to obtain something from the widow of the deceased, to which he certainly had a legal claim. Finding that his share would be all in land (160 acres) he soon manifested signs of impatience to be going back to England for his wife and family in order to occupy it. The idea of a person leaving us to go direct to the country, on which a large share of my affections will ever be placed, increased the desire, which I had never ceased to indulge, of visiting once more the shores of Old England. The purpose thus suggested was weighed over with feelings such as the sensitive reader will not require me to explain. No feeble motives could have prompted me to take the step I am here describing; connected with the thought of coming to England, dear as it was, I saw I should have to cross the Atlantic twice during the remainder of the summer, besides much tedious inland travelling. It required me to resist the entreaties of my children, who, with tears in their eyes, daily urged me not to leave them. But I will not go through these sad details. I will not repeat the arguments my neighbours employed to induce me to stay: how they reminded me that old age was beginning to number me among
62its victims; that it was in vain for me to think I could do as I had done. My decisive reply to these and many other obstacles which comfort, prudence, maternal and conjugal love suggested, was, "it must be now or never."
Decided, therefore, to carry out the resolve to which I had come, I prepared to accompany our guest, and finally left Illinois for England on the 20th of April, where we arrived after a prosperous voyage on the 19th of June; and thus am I again, for a few short summer weeks, in my own country. I will not trouble the reader further with my story. If the account I have given of our proceedings, adverse and successful, does not allure his fancy with ideas of visionary prosperity as the invariable result of crossing the seas, it may perchance tend to make him a little better satisfied with his present condition, though it should only be a snug little cottage in the land where his childhood was reared. If it does this, it will be something— my purpose will be served—and thus, reader, I wish thee farewell.
Note.—The writer feels it due to state that the subject of this narrative, as implied above, returned, after a stay in England of about three months, taking with her the daughter, mentioned at the first outset as being left, the husband of the same, and their two children, besides a family or two of connections. Since their departure three or four other families from their own immediate neighbourhood have followed