To the Public.
THE undersigned, having perused the whole or a part of some manuscript letters, written, from various places in the western section of the United States, by Mr. JOHN S. WRIGHT, to his friends in this village, unite in opinion, that they are interesting and useful. From several years acquaintance with the author, we have full confidence in his veracity, and can assure others that they may rely implicitly on the correctness of his statement of facts. Believing that his letters contain information very much wanted, and very beneficial to a numerous class of citizens in the eastern and northern States, we advise their publication, and recommend them to general patronage.
JAMES S. TIFFT,
JOHN C. WALKER.
Union-Village, Washington Co. N.Y.
July 28, 1819.
AS some account of the writer of these letters, and his motives for publishing them, may not, perhaps, be unacceptable, I shall endeavour to present the one, and explain the other, in as few words as possible. I was bred a mechanic, and followed my business assiduously until about six years since, when I purchased a farm in Northumberland, Saratoga county; and being better pleased with agricultural pursuits than the business I was bred to, I concluded to give my whole attention that way, as soon as I could obtain a situation to suit me. The Ohio mania, which has, for a few years past, been so generally prevalent in the east, at length infected my neighbourhood, and I did not escape the contagion. Unwilling, however, to rest my faith on common report, I made close inquiries, of every person I met with, who had seen either the country itself, or those who had visited it. I read the glowing descriptions given of it, in private letters and in the public prints; I procured and read every work on the subject I could hear of; I compared the different accounts, and left no means within my reach untried, to obtain correct
viinformation. The result was a full conviction of the superiority of the south-western country, over the section we inhabit; and I determined, if permitted, to remove thither. The severe winters, cold and dry summers, and short crops, we had lately experienced, had their full weight and influence on my mind, in forming these conclusions. Thus resolved, I sold my farm, and returned to this village to complete my preparations for the journey: and so confident did I feel of being suited with the country, that I intended taking on my family at once, thinking, that a previous journey, to look at a country, with which I thought myself already so perfectly acquainted, would be only a sacrifice of time and money. Some disappointments which I met with, in converting my little property into cash, I found would occasion a delay of six or eight months, and I then concluded, to employ this interval in visiting the country, and selecting a spot for my future residence.
The reader, will now, readily perceive, that my motives in visiting the south-western regions, differed widely from those of thousands who have preceded me. I went — not like the speculator — to purchase immense tracts of land with a view to future profit by the monopoly; — not like the traveller for amusement, who loves to astonish his friends at home, with "something of the marvellous;" — not like the scientific enthusiast — to invade the secret recesses of nature,
viito crawl through the tangled brake, dig into the ancient tumuli, roam the dark forest, and explore the hideous cavern by torch light, in order to enrich the "cabinets of the curious" with decayed bones, horned toads, skins of birds and dried leaves; — not like the philosophic Volney, who crossed the Atlantic, and scaled the Allegany, to "see which way the wind blew in the great Ohio valley," no — nor yet, like the lovers of romance, poetry and fiction, — to store my mind with images of stupendous mountains, majestic rivers, immense prairies, magnificent cities, and empty visions of the future grandeur and glory of the great Empire of the West. — These objects, however pleasing, curious or useful, they may be, were not within the circle of my inquiries: nor did I go as an enemy, to "spy out the nakedness" or "bring up an evil report of the good land;" for I have already informed the reader that my prepossessions were directly the reverse. But, I went as a plain practical farmer, to judge for myself, of the merits of a country so highly extolled; to examine the soil, the water and productions; to inquire into the state and profits of agriculture and domestic manufactures, to find the present prices of produce, and the prospects of a future market; to know the prices of the necessary foreign articles; and in short to satisfy myself respecting the salubriousness of the climate; the manners, customs and moral
viiicharacter of the inhabitants; and the state and prospects of their literary and religious institutions. Several friends, in this village and its vicinity, previous to my departure, requested me to write as often as convenient, while on my journey. I complied with their request, and I likewise kept a journal in which I noted facts and observations, as they occurred. From that journal and those letters, I have made the compilation which is now offered to the public. In doing this, I am principally actuated by a sense of duty; and the few friends I consulted, advised, or perhaps, it would be more modest to say, consented, to the measure; not because they, any more than myself, expected that I would receive any pecuniary benefit, but because they believed it might be useful. For the truth of the statements I have made, I consider my character staked; and I have given my name and place of residence. — Perhaps some may infer from the favorable description I have given of Chatauque, that I am governed by some interested motive, in so highly recommending that county; I would only reply, that I have said nothing more than I believe to be true, and, that I own no more land there, than I intend, if permitted, to occupy. Should the county continue to settle rapidly, the value of the farm, and what improvements I may make on it, would be somewhat enhanced; but I wish no person to rely on my description, and hazard a loss;
ixon the contrary, I take this opportunity to repeat the warning I have given in the work, "let no man, on any condition, or under any circumstances, whatever, be induced to remove his family to a distant country, until he has seen, examined and judged of it for himself." Should this warning be the means of saving one family, from the cruel disappointment and vain regret, which so many thousands are now enduring, the work which I intrude on the public will not have been written in vain. I am not vain enough to suppose, that this small publication will arrest the great tide of emigration, or even produce any very sensible effect. Should it be the means of rendering people more cautious in taking steps which cannot be retraced — should it induce them to "look before they leap," my highest hopes will be realized. To the criticks I would make my best bow, and beg of them to consider me entirely beneath their notice. I am a plain unlettered mechanic: I aspire not to the honor of amusing: my highest ambition is to be useful.
J. S. WRIGHT.
Union-Village, August, 1819.
Letter I. Hamilton, N.Y. (Formerly called Olean) Nov. 1, 1818.
MY DEAR SIR,
THIS day at noon I arrived here, somewhat fatigued, I confess, but not discouraged; on the contrary, I think my ardor rather increases to pursue my original design: that of exploring, examining and judging for myself of the highly extolled south-western country. This village is pleasantly situated at the head of the Allegany, at the junction of Olean and Oil Creeks: it contains, perhaps, an hundred buildings; some of which have a neat appearance, the rest are mere cabins, erected for the temporary residence of the eastern emigrants, while procuring boats and making other preparations for their voyage down the river. It is estimated, that there are now in this village and its vicinity, three hundred families, besides single travellers, amounting in all to fifteen hundred souls, waiting for a rise of the water to embark for "the promised land." I have just returned
12from taking a view of this inland flotilla, as they lie hauled up along the shore. These boats (or arks as they might very aptly be called) are quite conveniently constructed, for the accommodation of families and passengers: they are from thirty five to seventy five feet in length, and from eight to twelve in width; having the sides closed up, a door in each end, and an arched roof of thin boards, they contain a fire place, a cupboard, and decent births. They have two plying oars, and usually, two for steering: on the whole, a family on board, are tolerably well accommodated. I have engaged a passage to Cincinnati, in one which will leave here to-morrow. We are all very sanguine in our expectations (from the accounts we continually hear) of finding a country below which will afford the necessaries of life in profusion, and relieve us from the necessity of perpetual labor, for the support of our families and cattle. Such expectations induce the hardy, enterprising sons of the north and east, to abandon those frozen regions, brave the toil and perils of a long journey, and, by one vigorous effort, place their families (so far as depends on human exertion) beyond the reach of grinding poverty.
J. S. W.
Letter II. Pittsburgh, Penn. Dec. 3d, 1818.
OUR voyage hither was rather slow and dangerous, owing to the shallowness of the water: — the frequency of rapids and shoals renders a pilot indispensable. The country we have passed is rather mountainous; affording very little bottom land, and that little not well managed. There are four or five villages, of some little consequence, scattered along the banks of the Allegany, which afford the mind a temporary relief from the gloominess imparted by the rude and barren scenery, which almost continually presents itself. These towns, however, afford but a scanty and dear supply, for the numerous wants of the passing emigrants. I saw, on my route, the 20 cents per acre land in Pennsylvania, so much talked of among our neighbours; but as I do not like it myself, I cannot recommend it to others. This place fully equals, and perhaps exceeds, the description generally given of it. The approach to it on the river is delightful: you are surrounded by rugged hills and finely cultivated vallies, decorated with neat cottages and elegant mansions. An immense column of dusky smoke, which is seen ascending, spreading in vast wreaths among the clouds, marks the site of Pittsburgh. The bold features of the surrounding country, lend to the town an air of
14grandeur and magnificence, such as we seldom meet with: nor is the voyager entirely mistaken; the town, on his entrance, presents him with numerous marks of activity, enterprise and wealth. Nature has been uncommonly bountiful in her gifts, but an indolent population could have received no benefit from them; she has provided an inexhaustible supply of stone-coal, iron ore of the first quality, numerous quarries of freestone, timber of ever kind necessary for the country, together with the finest of clay for brick, and sand for glass: — nor have these advantages been neglected; great quantities of glass are manufactured, of a superior quality; coal constitutes the principal article of their fuel, is exported in great quantities to the towns below, and is made use of in their steam boats, and in all their great manufactories, which are propelled by steam; among which are a grist and saw mill, a rolling and slitting mill; a paper mill, and a cotton and woollen manufactory.
This town is situated on a point of land, formed by the junction of the Allegany and Monongahela, at the head of the Ohio river, in the stale of Pennsylvania. A bridge has been erected this season, over the Monongahela, consisting of seven arches, supported by stone piers and abutments, of masterly workmanship; another is now building over the Allegany of equal strength and elegance. The market here is well supplied,
15and tolerably cheap: the beef and pork of an excellent quality. Here I believe I have seen some of the largest and most powerful horses, that our country can produce: should I relate what I have actually seen them perform, you would be likely to tell me, I was making use of the traveller's licence, before I had earned it. There are several regular streets, with buildings of two or three stories; and several churches, belonging to different denominations, which are neat buildings, and appear to be kept in good order: but the cloud of smoke in which the town is enveloped, gives a smutty appearance to every thing. A person after walking the streets a few hours, finds his linen badly soiled; the sulphurous smell, too, emitted from the burning coal, will be quite disagreeable until he has become somewhat accustomed to it. The town would have been far pleasanter, had their steam machinery been erected at some little distance from it.
At one o'clock, this day, I attended the funeral obsequies, of the brave and lamented Commodore Barney. While in this town, on a tour to the south, he was seized with a violent fever, which, added to some old complaints, with which he was afflicted, terminated his valuable life yesterday, about three o'clock. The funeral procession formed at the Hotel, and moved with the remains, preceded by a military band playing a solemn dirge, to the Presbyterian
16Church, in the cemetery of which, they were interred in Masonic order. It was a dignified and solemn scene; decency, propriety and good order prevailed throughout, and the whole proceedings, reflected honor, as well on the living as the dead. — To-morrow we start down the river: our prospects brighten.
J. S. W.
Letter III. Cincinnati, Dec. 29th, 1818.
I arrived here about the middle of the present month. It had not rained since we left Hamilton, until two or three days after we embarked from Pittsburgh. The sudden rise of the water was to me really astonishing: the waters of the Ohio were so uncommonly low, that our boat, though drawing only ten inches, actually grounded several times. It began to rain about noon, and continued steadily until night, at which, time we found the water beginning to swell: the next morning, it appeared, on an exact admeasurement, to have risen seven feet, three inches, perpendicularly. From this time our passage, was more easy and expeditious. The scenery along the Ohio does not entirely meet my expectations: the bottom lands, indeed, are very extensive,
17but they are not in a very high state of cultivation; the buildings on the plantations, are not such as I expected to have seen — generally, log-cabins; and scarcely an instance of a framed barn, or any thing else which bore the appearance of taste, elegance or improvement. To the rude and slovenly state of the country, the towns present a striking and agreeable contrast: many of these have a neat and flourishing appearance. Among those entitled to notice, are Wheeling, in Virginia; Steubenville, in Ohio; Marietta, at the mouth of Muskingum, in the same state; and Mayville, at the mouth of the Limestone, in Kentucky. We had occasion to buy provisions at several of these towns, and, to our extreme surprise, found them scarce, and as dear as in New-York, Many of these places suffer by frequent inundations; Marietta, perhaps, more than others, for although it stands on a bank, at least thirty feet above the present surface of the stream, yet I actually saw high-water marks on the second stories of many buildings. Since my first arrival here, I have taken two tours into the adjoining country and returned to this place: the first led me through what is called the White-water country, in Indiana, and through a small part of Kentucky; in my second, I traversed much of the Miami country, in Ohio. But before I attempt to describe the country I have been viewing, let me pay a little
18attention to the town from whence I am writing.
Cincinnati is pleasantly situated on the north bank of the Ohio: the greater part of the town is on the second elevation, which secures it from the annual floods. It is said to cover a section and two quarter sections, or, in other words, nearly a thousand acres of ground: several of the streets are really elegant; showing extensive rows of superb brick buildings. Main street would suffer but little, by a comparison with the best in many of the eastern cities. There are four or five churches, two markets and other public edifices; a grist mill, several cotton and woollen manufactories, all propelled by steam; a saw mill driven by the force, or rather weight, of oxen or horses; with numerous other buildings, for manufacturing and mechanical purposes.
The building of steam-boats is here carried on largely: four or five are now on the stocks, some of which are nearly ready to launch. Glass-making, is also pursued extensively. The inhabitants, or at least a great part of them, appear genteel in their dress, and easy and polite in their manners: but here let me make a remark, which applies to all the large towns in this country, as well as to this. — Here is the residence of the great capitalists; here the speculators are assembled; from these central points, the men of cent per cent calculation, carry
19en their monopolizing enterprises; — let not this remark be forgotten.
I have frequently attended the markets, and you will doubtless be surprised, if not incredulous, at my account of them. We have always looked toward this, as a "land flowing with milk and honey;" or, at least, as abounding in bread, beef and butter: — no such thing. You shall judge — take the prices of the day — not a fabricated "price current," but actual sales which I have witnessed myself: — wheat flour 3 to 4 cents per lb. — buck-wheat meal the same — corn meal, 50 cents per bushel — pork from 5 to 3 cents per lb. — beef from 5 to 9 cents — cheese 25 cents — butter 25 to 31 cents — turkeys from 75 to 150 cents each — fowls 18 to 25 cents — ducks 25 cents — geese 38 to 50 cents — quails 1 dollar per dozen — eggs 25 cents per doz. — beans 6 cents per quart — potatoes 1 dollar per bush. poor, and very scarce — hay from 12 to 25 dollars per ton — salt 4 dollars for 50 lbs, which is here considered a bushel — no fish in market. — A plentiful country truly! These prices are not in consequence of any uncommon scarcity, or failure of crops, but as far as I have been able to learn, are about as usual. The beef and pork are miserable: an eastern farmer would scarcely think it in good store or working order.
Travellers experience much inconvenience from the circulating medium. The hills of the country banks are in low credit;
20specie is scarcely seen, for every purse in this country is drained of its metalic contents, to enable the trader to make his remittances to the Atlantic cities, from whence almost all the goods are brought, over land to Pittsburgh, thence down the river by water. From these causes, there arises a continual call on the eastern emigrants and travellers, for an exchange of paper, frequently offering a premium of ten percent for eastern bills.
Most kinds of mechanical business have been very good here, though rather dull at present; partly owing to the general depression of business, and partly to the great influx of mechanics. Hence wages have become low; and many, not finding employment as mechanics, have hired rooms, and made use of what capital they possessed, in setting up little groceries: — of these, several in this town, appear to be doing very good business.
Having already mentioned the price of salt, 8 dollars for 100 lbs. I will now give the result of an estimate, which I have thought well calculated to place the profits of the Ohio farmer in a light very different from that in which we have been in the habit of viewing them. Suppose a farmer living thirty miles, by land, from this town, to bring here corn enough to pay for a barrel of salt, (if he allow himself the same for transportation that he would be obliged to pay to another,) it will, when landed at his
21door, stand him in over one hundred bushels of corn. You may think this calculation erroneous, but I assure you it is correct. I have spun this letter out to such a length, that I must defer my account of the countries I have lately explored, until my next.
J. S. W.
Letter IV. Cincinnati, Jan. 6, 1819.
MY DEAR FRIEND,
THE countries I have lately been exploring, on the Miami and White-water rivers, do certainly contain large bodies of excellent land, beautifully undulating, and chequered with streams of whitish water, generally impregnated with lime. The inhabitants however are, mostly, of indolent slovenly habits, devoting the chief part of their time to hunting, and drinking whiskey, (the only liquor in use,) and appear to be a meagre, sickly, spiritless and unenterprising race: contented to live in log-cabins, containing only one room, with the chimney on the outside, and five or six lusty dogs within. Very rarely is a school house or church to be seen, and scarcely a bridge of thirty feet in length. The improvement of public roads is entirely neglected; and so negligent are they in managing the concerns of their farms, that I daily
22see even large fields of corn not yet harvested; for, it seems, they gather it no faster than their wants require. From the best information I can obtain, their average crops are, of corn, per acre, forty bushels; wheat, twenty five; oats, thirty; and potatoes, about forty. They raise very little rye, and generally cut about one ton of hay to the acre. — The people, in fact, appear too indolent to raise much grain: they do not usually clear more than thirty or forty acres to a farm; leaving the rest in the state of nature, for the benefit of "mast
23a good one, that gives from five to six quarts at a milking; and a hog that weighs 200 lbs. is over the usual size.
In certain parts of this country, there are poisonous roots or weeds, which frequently kill the cattle that eat much of any of them: and should a hog, dog or wolf, make a feast of the carcase, it inevitably proves his last. Poisoned milk, too, is quite common, of which, if people eat they sicken immediately, and will need medical aid before they are restored to health. Another of the evils of this "garden of the world," is what is termed sick wheat: this is most frequency found on the rich bottom lands, and is supposed to be owing to the fogs, which often prevail there. It is only to be distinguished, while growing, by the fuzzy end of the berry containing a small red speck: in all other respects, it appears like healthy wheat: it is said to be certain death to any creature that eats of it: consequently, whenever a crop is found to be infected, the whole must be destroyed. While on the subject of poisons, I will mention snakes, which are rather numerous; especially the copper-head and rattle snake, which annoy the happy inhabitants of this terrestrial paradise. I have seen five or six persons who had been bitten: fortunately for them, however, the country furnishes an antidote, or rather remedy, in a certain plant, which counteracts the poison, when it can be procured in season.
Great numbers of people from New-Jersey, New-York and farther east, have settled in those parts of the country of which I am speaking; but they are generally disappointed in their expectations, and dissatisfied with the country: many of them declared to me, that they would return if they possessed the means. They admit, that the country is not natural to grass; nor can it over become so, in consequence of the general growth of a certain kind of wild grass, by some called blue joint, by others nimble Will, which chokes out the English grass, and at the same time is not good itself; for as soon as it springs up to the height of five or six inches, it becomes so hard and tough, that cattle cannot eat it. Flax, they assert, does well, and sheep tolerably: in one flock which I saw last week, I counted fifty lambs, which appeared sprightly and vigorous, but this flock was five times as large as any other I have seen. There are a few orchards of apple and peach trees in the Miami country, which appeared so thrifty and promising, that I am induced to think, that by attention and good culture, they could not fail to yield fruit in abundance.
Wherever, in my tours, I saw a situation that was desirable, I was naturally led to inquire for the owner: the answer was almost invariably the same: it is the property of the capitalist, the speculator, the resident of some adjacent village or large town, and cannot be had at a fair price: if there
25is even a lot of wild land worthy the attention of the farmer, depend upon it the speculator has his clutch upon it, and you cannot buy it short of, perhaps, three times the government price. This is so universally the case, that I consider the only chance now, for the emigrant to obtain public land, at the established price, is on some rugged hill or in some dismal hole, where the eagle-eyed speculator himself, can see no prospect of profit.
Thus far you will readily perceive, my hopes are not realized, but I am not yet disheartened. I shall endeavour, in my future progress, to let a reasonable assurance animate my exertions, "for he that despairs of success will not succeed; and to him that believes every thing impossible despondency shall render it so; but he that persevereth shall overcome all difficulties." I shall continue to pursue my first object, until I find a country to suit me better than any I have yet set my foot on; or I will return to my native land and endeavor to be satisfied with the situation in which a wise Providence has placed me; for truly says the precept, "the cup of felicity, pure and unmixed, is by no means a draught for the lips of mortals."
J. S. W.
Letter V. Vincennes, (Indiana,) Feb. 6, 1819.
We had a quick passage down the river from Cincinnati, in a skiff which we navigated ourselves. We passed several towns along the river; among those that deserve mention, is Rising-Sun, about thirty miles below Cincinnati, which contains about a hundred houses, pleasantly situated on a lofty bank, above high-water mark: it appears to be declining; the country around it, is quite hilly and broken. Vevay, a Swiss settlement, forty-six miles below Cincinnati, contains but few houses, and is only remarkable from the vineyards in its vicinity. These are situated below the town on the bottom land, and afford a delightful prospect. The vines are planted in rows, about six feet apart; are supported by stakes and bars, to which they are bound with straw; and are hoed and cultivated like Indian corn. Port-William, at the mouth of the Kentucky river, a small town subject to inundation; the country in its rear very pleasant, distance below Cincinnati seventy miles. — Madison, in Jefferson county, Indiana, ninety-two miles below Cincinnati, contains about a hundred houses, situated above high-water mark: a flourishing town, surrounded by lofty knobs, which give the landscape a very singular and picturesque appearance.
At the falls of Ohio, are six towns, viz Jeffersonville, Clarksville and New-Albany, on the Indiana side; and Louisville, Shipping-port and Portland, on the Kentucky side. Louisville, at the head of the falls, is a town at least two thirds as large as Cincinnati; contains several regular streets, with elegant three story brick buildings: but, unfortunately, its situation is unhealthful, being surrounded by swamps and stagnant waters. The tavern charges, here, are the most extravagant I ever paid. Fifty cents for a common meal, twenty-five for lodging, twenty-five for a gill of spirits, and seventy-five for horse keeping: I may venture to assert without fear of contradiction that travelling is more expensive, considering the quality of food, in this boasted land of plenty, than in any part of the northern states. We passed a number of other towns, but there is so little variety in their appearance, or that of the country about them, I will not fatigue you, or myself, by an attempt to describe them. I shall, therefore, only mention Evensville, where we landed. It is situated just above the mouth of the big Pigeon-creek three hundred miles below Cincinnati, in Vandenburgh county, Indiana. It was first settled as a town about three years ago. It now contains perhaps fifty houses, and judging from its local situation, must eventually, rank high in the scale of western cities. It is the nearest point of the Ohio, to Vincennes, (fifty-five miles,) and in consequence
28of the difficulty of navigating the Wabash, a great part of the year, in all probability, the supplies of merchandise for a large extent of country north, will be carried by land from Evensville; provided a sufficient degree of spirit ever exist in the country to render the roads passable. Here I first saw the reed cane; it is an evergreen and appeared to great advantage among the leafless trees of the forest. Between Evensville and this place, is some land which may be called good, the soil a gravelly loam, with a smaller proportion of clay than is usual. There is a great variety of timber, and the face of the country is agreeably undulating; but the inhabitants, buildings, roads, improvements, (or rather the want of them,) are of just the same character, with those described in my last letter. There are some fine looking bottom lands on the Petoka and White rivers, which we crossed, but good farming lands are here, as elsewhere, in the hands of the great landholders; and consequently, are exorbitantly high, every thing considered.
Vincennes is situated on a prairie, of some thousand acres in extent, bounded on the west by the Wabash, and by the uplands in all other directions. On the borders of this vast plain, are some three or four of those ancient mounds or tumuli, which have so often been the subject of deep interest, laborious research and profound investigation. The base of one covers, at least, an acre of ground, in a circular
29form: the summit towers to the height of a hundred feet. They are composed of earth, scooped out of the bank on each side, and must have been a work of immense toil and fatigue; especially, if, as is generally supposed, they were erected by the tedious process of manual labor. Vincennes contains about two hundred houses, scattered irregularly over an extent of two hundred acres: the greater part are of logs, or rails laid up in the manner of logs, bedaubed with clay, and destitute of every appearance of order or cleanliness: but the owner of the mansion appears, dressed in skins, or linsey-woolsey of family make; he comes out, but whether to labor in the field, or to display his mental and bodily powers, in training his dogs or his horse, the effect, on the traveller possessed of feeling and information, is the same; his emotions of pity are mingled with contempt, and could he forbear laughing he might possibly find in his heart to weep at such an exhibition of ignorance, stupidity and self-conceit. Lately, however, some eastern people, have fixed themselves among these semi-barbarians, and have commenced the era of improvement by building some decent houses. This course, will eventually dislodge the ancient half-French, half-Indian horde, that have so long disgraced these beautiful plains; for nothing in nature is so opposite to their notions of comfort, as "yankies," civilization and improvement. The Wabash, is here, about
30two hundred yards wide, and is said to be navigable for boats (part of the season) seventy miles higher, to fort Harrison. The surrounding country, is timbered chiefly with white oak: the soil of the upland is composed of clay and sand; sometimes with an admixture of gravel: the bottom lands are a deep, vegetable mould, and are, really, as rich as can well be imagined; though not quite so superlatively productive, as we have been led to believe. From the best information I have been enabled to obtain, I believe, notwithstanding the boast of an hundred to the acre, I hazard nothing in saying, that forty bushels of corn is an average crop. The vile, disgraceful and inhuman practice of kidnapping, is not only carried on, but even countenanced here. The unfeeling, avaricious monsters, with brutal ferocity, seize the ignorant, unprotected African, and, deaf to his cries and supplications fur mercy and liberty, bind him hand and foot, drag him from his weeping helpless family, hurry him away to the southern stales, and barbarously sell their fellow-mortal, to drag out a miserable existence in slavery, doomed to suffer all that avarice can command or unrestrained cruelty inflict. O Christian humanity! how are thy benign and heavenly precepts dis-regarded, where the most wicked and attrocious traffic in human flesh, is esteemed a mere matter of business — a common and innocent speculation! — I will give you one,
31of many instances I might relate. About three months ago, five free blacks were seized by these, worse than savages, in this place and its vicinity, and hurried off toward the south for market. Two days had elapsed before the outrage came to the knowledge of the few New-England people here; they spent but few moments in deliberation, having but little confidence in the arm of the law; knowing its effect was tardy and uncertain, they seized their own arms, and pursued the ruffians eighty miles on the route to St. Louis: where overtaking them, they fought, and freed the captives. The brutal captors they took back, and delivered to the civil authority at Vencennes. This glaringly outrageous act, was laid before the grand jury since my arrival here: but corruption had been early at work; the presiding judge, and three fourths of the men who composed the jury, were interested in this, or some other kidnapping concern, consequently, although the friends of humanity did all in their power; although the case was clear and undisputed, yet so was the thing managed, that no bill was found; and the vile band of marauders escaped unpunished.
J. S. W.
Letter VI. Vincennes, February 18th, 1819.
SINCE my last, I have taken a tour into Illinois, and I most sincerely wish I could say, that the change of scene had produced a change of prospects; but a regard to truth, and a desire to give you correct information, forbid me to say so. I must either cease to write, or I must spread before you, my opinions and feelings, just as they spring, warm from the head and the heart; yet, perhaps you may think me too much influenced by fancy or the whim of the moment: with respect to unsubstantial things, I will not deny that I am "even as others." But fancy or whim, my dear friend, can neither produce or destroy a fact: — Fancy and whim cannot level mountains or elevate vallies, elicit springs in the sunburnt prairie, nor change a quagmire to arable land: no; nor alter the habits of the western planters, nor fill their paper banks with a specie capital. Facts, then, are the solid foundation on which my opinions rest: facts, the knowledge of which, I have acquired, either from the evidence of my own senses, or the testimony of others that appeared entitled to credit; not an idle tale from an idle individual, but the aggregate of what could be learned from all, examined, compared, and tested by each other, and by my own actual observation, To return from this digression,
33wherever I have been since I wrote last, the general face and state of things seem to be the same: wherever there is a situation favorable for water machinery; wherever there is a spot, that, from local circumstances, exhibits a prospect for a little town; or wherever there is even a tolerable fanning tract, the result, on inquiry, is still invariably the same: — they are held in the iron grasp of the insatiate land jobber; and the industrious, the needy emigrant, must submit to his terms or flee to the wilderness, far beyond the precincts, of even such society as exists here. I have, I believe, made the same or similar remarks in my former letters, but these things in a manner force themselves upon me: they meet me at every turn — the sameness of every thing throughout such an extent of country astonishes me.
On entering Illinois I beheld a vast, and almost boundless body of land, stretching before and around me: equal, or nearly so, in point of fertility, to the boasted swales of the western parts of New-York: every thing teemed to invite me to select a spot, begin my improvements, and enjoy my happy fate. But ah! like the enjoyment of forbidden pleasure, there is a sting behind. Not only is an exhorbitant price demanded, but the inhabitants, the people among whom I must spend my days; with whom my intimacies, my friendships are to be formed: to whom I must look for all those delicate attentions which spread a charm over society;
34for an interchange of all those kind and endearing offices, so indispensably necessary in the hour of trouble and sickness: the inhabitants I repeat, are sufficient to dispel the gay vision: it is impossible to dream long in a land of such palpable realities, They are a motly assemblage of Pennsylvanians, Virginians, Carolinians and Kentuckyans with a few yankies intermixed, scattered over the face of the country, at the distance of from two to eight or ten miles apart, in order, as they say, to have sufficient range for their cattle, and mast for their hogs. At this distance they wish to keep; and they look with a malicious, scowling eye, on the New-England men who settle among them, and begin a course of improvement by clearing their lands. I have now come to a question, which I freely acknowledge myself unable to solve: but first let me state the fact which gives rise to it. It is a fact, for the truth of which I consider my character pledged, that the northern emigrants, (with some few honorable exceptions,) who remove to this country, and settle as farmers, among the people from the southern states, do degenerate. The question then recurs, what is the cause? Many reasons may be offered, though none are to me entirely satisfactory. It may arise from a wish to avoid giving offence to the people among whom they live, and with whom they must associate and form connexions: a love of ease may induce the abandonment of those habits of industry,
35which the methods of farming pursued by the southern setters, and the modes of living which prevail among them, do not require: intermarriages, too, may have their effect, or, lastly, there may exist a deteriorating principle in the very climate, which enfeebles the mental, as it actually does, the bodily powers; and, added to the force of example and the causes assigned above, may produce the lamentable effect. It might be adduced as a proof of the debilitating nature of the climate, that a race of people did certainly once inhabit these regions, who were much farther advanced in civilization, than the natives were at the discovery of America, or than their descendants who inhabit the wilderness are at the present day. What has become of this people? Are they extinct? This is possible; but even in case of utter extermination, we might reasonably have expected that some tradition of a people; so far superior in the arts to themselves, would have remained among the posterity of their ruthless conquerors. Did they remove? The extent of country over which the stupendous monuments of their existence are scattered, seems almost a sufficient negative to that idea; but should the affirmative be admitted, a question, quite as difficult to answer, presents itself, where did they settle? They certainly are not now to be found: wherever these mounds are discovered, they uniformly became distinguishing mark — antiquity. The question
36may, lastly, be viewed in the light which was first suggested: and here you have my hypothesis: that the ancestors of the natives of this part of the country, emigrated from the north of Asia, and gradually spread themselves south and east: that they were somewhat advanced in civil arts, but had no knowledge of letters; of course some other method must be adopted, to perpetuate the memory of remarkable events and distinguished persons: that the building or heaping up piles of earth were the means resorted to; and their different forms and sizes no doubt had their peculiar meanings: that from the enervating influence of the climate, this more active race sunk gradually to a level with the more savage tribe who surrounded them: that as their habits of sloth and apathy gained ground, what few arts they possessed, fell into disuse and were forgotten: that as ambition decayed, the motives to great actions were lost; and none being performed, of course no monuments were necessary to record them: and that in the lapse of a few ages, the purposes of their erection were alike disregarded and forgotten: the monuments alone remaining, sole history of themselves, to brave the fury of the elements, and puzzle the brains of Philosophers.
The prairies of this country, so highly extolled, are nothing more or less than large tracts of untimbered land; generally level or nearly so: some are of vast extent,
37stretching before the eye until bounded by the horizon; while others are of quite diminutive size. Many different theories have been woven to account for the absence of trees, but I shall not repeat them: the only beneficial inquiry is, are they to be considered as advantageous to the country, or otherwise? On one side it may be urged, that they are ready cleared to the hand of the settler, which, to him, is an entire saving of time and labor: and that what he does not wish to enclose and cultivate, affords pasturage for as many cattle as he chooses to keep: others will say that the want of timber for building, fencing and fuel, and the want of water and shade, are disadvantages, that more than counterbalance all these benefits: all this is said, on the supposition that they are uniformly fertile; this, however, is very remote from the truth. The low prairies, are fertile indeed, but most certainly unhealthful: the high, or at least, a great proportion of them, are merely oak barrens; of a clayey or sandy soil; the grass they produce, is a tall wild kind different from that before described; it affords a nourishing luxuriant pasturage while springing up, but soon becomes so hardened that cattle cannot eat it.
I have seen and conversed with many people, men of understanding, who have travelled extensively to the west and south of this place, particularly a missionary from New-Connecticut; however much they differed
38in opinion on many particulars, they all agreed in this, that from what I have seen I may fairly judge of what I have not seen: that the like sameness prevails in lands and water, habits of the people, and foresight of the speculators. In consequence of these representations, and the disappointments I have every where met with, I have concluded to proceed no farther, but to face about, and, returning by a different route, explore at my leisure the northern parts of this state and Ohio. I contemplate taking a northeasterly direction, as my main course, deviating to the right or left, as fancy or the information I receive, may prompt. As I purpose making some little stay at Cleveland, my next will probably be dated there.
J. S. W.
Letter VII. Zanesville, Muskingum Co. Ohio, March 2d, 1819.
MY DEAR FRIEND,
I did not expect to address you again until I reached Cleveland, but I have become so fatigued with "marching and counter marching" through this wilderness of mud, that I have thought prudent to make a halt for a few days and rest my weary limbs; but a state of positive idleness is more fatigueing to me than severe exercise; and as
39nothing better offers at present, I again point my pen towards Union-Village. — Were bodily weariness all that debilitated my frame, I might even here obtain the rest required; but my living (nay, dont laugh) has in this "granary of the world" been so, I will not say absolutely bad, but rather so unvaried, morning, noon, and night; there has been in it so much of that confounded sameness of which I have so often complained, that my spirits are beginning to flag: only think, my dear Sir, for a moment, think of my fare, and thank your kind stars, that prevented you from accompanying me; be thankful, I say, while I assure you, that for twenty days past, I have not eaten a mouthful of beef steak, oven bread, pudding, pie, sauce or cheese; nothing in short but one everlasting dish — "hog, homminy and hoe-cake." If to this be added, the continual necessity of wading, half-leg deep, in mud and water, exposed to the inclemency of the weather through the day, and at night, sent to lodge in a half finished room, where, for lack of mud between the logs, and sometimes for lack of a door, the unwholesome damps of the night, always considered deleterious in this country, were fanning my broken slumbers; when these things are told, will you wonder when I assure you, that my spirits lose their wonted elasticity, that my strength decays, that my flesh is pasted, in short that I am reduced to a mere
40travelling mummy, or full length figure of an Arab of the desert.
The number of my weary steps has, in all my rambles, been much augmented by the difficulty of keeping the direct road: this difficulty, sufficiently perplexing in the inhabited country, is painfully increased in the woods, where, if a tree happens to fall across the road, no one thinks of disturbing it: new paths are opened, and these, winding about to shun sloughs, underwood, hillocks, windfalls and other obstructions, cross each other in all directions, and involve the "way-worn traveller" in successive labyrinths. To add to his distress, he cannot find one person in five who can direct him three miles from their own doers; nay, more, I have met with numbers, who could not tell me the name of the county or town they lived in, or even that of the Governor of the state. While I am in this desultory mode of writing, I will mention some detached circumstances, and observations that have been neglected in their proper places. We are frequently shocked with unpleasant incidents, which naturally happen where domestic slavery is permitted; but of the horrors of such a state of things, we can have no conception from viewing it in the mild form it assumes in New-York: to be made fully acquainted with the shocking aggregate of torture and contumely, which the wretched children of Africa are doomed to undergo, one must travel south. The
41picture of slavery, among the Arabs of the desert, as drawn by the masterly hand of a Riley, is only a picture, a faint imperfect sketch, of the horror-breathing original, as it stalks over the lovely plains of Virginia and Kentucky: I could tell what my eyes have witnessed, but my soul recoils with horror from the recollectiony and I gladly drop the subject.
I have conversed with many people, who have removed from the north and east, to this country, who appear dissatisfied with their exchange, and heartily wish themselves reinstated in their former condition: but this being beyond the extent of their means, and fueling restless and uneasy where they were, many had determined to go further. Although the fair goddess of the terrestrial Elysium, would not unveil her beauties in Ohio or Indiana, they still hope to pay their homage at her shrine, in some more favored groves: some expect to find her on the vine-fringed banks of the Arkansaw; some, amid the fragrant, meads of the Red River or the Obine; while others, less sanguine, do not expect to overtake her short of the falls of St. Anthony, whither, they think, she has winged her flight, to bless the infant colony of the infant Bishop P * * * * *.
Speaking of these restless, disappointed wanderers, reminds me of a young gentleman I accidentally became acquainted with. His countenance and deportment interested me, although his dress (as the world goes)
42added nothing in his favor. I afterwards learned his short history. He was from the east, Boston or its vicinity: his father was in easy circumstances, able to assist his children, whom he wished to keep about him: this young gentleman unhappily was seized with symptoms of the epidemic, with which our eastern friends have been lately visited: I mean the Ohio fever. His tender parent did all in his power for his relief, but in vain: nothing but a change of climate seemed likely to effect a cure: he received, as an outfit, a horse, saddle, bridle, portmanteaus well crammed with clothing, a watch, and six hundred dollars in cash. Thus equipped, he bade his friends adieu, and with spirits buoyed aloft, by the most sanguine hopes of sudden wealth and future greatness, he bounded gaily and rapidly along. The remainder of the tale is soon told; disappointment crossed his path, and sickness stopped his course: when I saw him he was employed as a common laborer at fifty cents per day: but he was five hundred miles on his journey home: his heart much humbler, and his head much wiser than when, like a prodigal, he left it, like a prodigal to return.
Horses that are driven to this country from the east, must inevitably undergo a seasoning, as it is called, as well as their drivers: the roads are so bad, and their feed so different from what they have been accustomed to, that they soon pine away, and
43continue in a feeble, sickly state, until they become, in a measure, inured to a different diet. Corn in the ear, and corn blades, are almost the only horse-feed attainable on the road, and a comfortable stable is a rarity. — Corn, indeed, is the principal article of food for man and beast: for while the hogs, horses and cattle are masticating it without doors, the family and dogs are feasting on hoe-cake and homminy within. Cattle are very subject to the slobbers, and in the hot season, the flies torment them, and gorge their blood to such a degree, that they grow thin in the very season when they should thrive best. The article of salt, has ever been, and still is, very high: but people are now in hopes that this evil will be remedied; partially at least. A great number of wealthy men are now engaged in boring in various places: some have already succeeded in obtaining salt water, at the depth of many hundred feet, from which they make salt to great advantage.
I have more than once mentioned the ancient mounds, but neglected to describe one, which is entitled to particular notice. Circleville, a town on the Sciota, Pickaway Co. Ohio, is enclosed with two circular walls of earth, about sixteen feet apart, perhaps twenty feet at the base and ten in height: the open space contains about four acres of ground: there is no appearance of the earth having been removed, within or without the walls; But between them it is somewhat
44depressed; a circular mound once stood in the centre which is now removed, and a Court-house erected on the spot. Adjoining the circle on the east, is what might be termed a fort; it is square, larger than the circle, with gateways at each corner, and two mounds within the square on the east side: the whole bears marks of design and skill.
Yours as ever,
J. S. W.
Letter VIII. Cleveland, March 10th, 1819.
I am here, and my wanderings I hope are at an end. I have explored, to the extent of my wishes, the countries below, embracing a great portion of Ohio and Indiana, and parts of Virginia, Kentucky and Illinois. I have given you my observations and remarks on what I saw in my travels, just as they occurred to my mind, together with all the information (to be relied on) which I have been able to draw from others, it only remains that I should endeavour to collect my scattered ideas, examine my memorandums, and, after comparing, collating and revising, try to present to your view, the countries I have explored, with their advantages and disadvantages; in a more condensed form, and with all the candour and
45honesty I am possessed of. In doing this, however, I must be allowed to take my own way. I am too little accustomed to writing, to treat this subject methodically; all I promise on that point is, that I will be as clear and concise as possible.
There is in this country a certain class of men who are, undoubtedly, in the possession of great advantages; I have adverted to them before, they are the land-jobbers, the speculators, the rich capitalists, the men who were wealthy when they came here — who were able to purchase large tracts and retail them out, reserving, however, every valuable privilege to themselves; men who were able to build mills, machinery and even towns; they were likewise able to obtain the right of propelling boats by steam, and in their hands, almost exclusively, the great advantages of the steam-boat business center. These men, as I before observed, reside in the towns along the river, they are at the head of all great business, they build elegant mansions, live in style, and diffuse an air of business, life and activity all around them. These circumstances give to the river towns an appearance of wealth and business, which has been the means of deceiving thousands. The conclusion, that where a large flourishing town exists, a fertile and populous country must lie in its rear, is so natural, that it can create no surprise that so many have believed it to be so. These appearances are, however, in a great
46degree fallacious; it is not the produce of the land, but the profit, drawn by the speculator, from the retail purchaser, which gives such a flourishing aspect to the towns. When we consider the immense sums which have been carried from the east, all of which have been paid in that country for lands and improvements; when we consider too, how much is paid out there yearly, by the multitudes who are continually traversing the country, in all directions, and who never eat a meal without paying for it; when these things are duly considered, we might naturally expect a country to flourish. If a farmer can sell all his surplus produce in his own house, at twenty-five cents a meal, and with no expense or trouble but that of cooking it, what should hinder him from growing rich? and with these advantages some of them have actually done so, but their numbers are comparatively small.
The banking establishments are in the hands of the same class of men I have mentioned: a class who own almost every thing worth owning. For a time they were extremely profitable. During the war they made great advances to the officers of government; and it is often boasted that the army must have been disbanded, had not the Miami Company, furnished Gen. Harrison with funds for its maintainance, at a period of peculiar danger and difficulty. These banks had, during the war, the advantage of receiving as deposits, most of the immense sums, which were profusely poured into this part of the country, for the support and payment of the army and militia; and for the building and equipment of the naval force on Lake Erie. In their vaults too, have been deposited all the money which has been paid for public lands. While government thus furnished the capital, and was at the same time the best customer, the affairs of the banks went on "in the fall tide of successful" operation; their paper circulated widely, was in good credit; every thing wore a smiling appearance; and strangers, nay the people, and even the bankers themselves were deceived. The United States Bank was incorporated, and branches
48were established in every state. Do you not recollect reading the newspaper account that the western legislatures were attempting to levy a tax on these branches? At that time I could not conjecture the cause of this hostility; but I now find the reason very obvious; the United States branches were in future to be the places of deposit for all monies belonging to the government, thus at a blow, depriving the state banks of their capital. The stockholders raged and swore, the legislatures blustered and enacted laws; the judges of the supreme court of the United States declared these laws unconstitutional, and the states must submit. In the mean time, the branch agents receive the state notes in payment for stock, and then call on the banks for specie; this measure almost drove the bankers to despair; but a blow still more serious awaited them, the branches having drawn the specie from the stale banks, into their own vaults, commenced business and as a home thrust, issued an order "that nothing should be received from the people in payment of their debts to the general government, but United States paper or specie." This unexpected blow laid the whole state banking interest prostrate, and rendered their paper, as was waggishly observed, "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." The effect of these measures was not confined to the rich; the trader, the manufacturer, the farmer, the mechanic, in
49short, every class of people felt the shock; their debts must be paid, or their land forfeited; every newspaper was filled with the advertisements of brokers, offering great premiums for United States bills, or eastern paper, (which was equivalent.) Every mouth in community was calling to the passing yankee, (while every hand laid hold on his button,) "have you got any eastern bills — twelve, fifteen, twenty per cent for eastern bills — eastern bills — eastern bills." Knaves tried to take advantage of the avidity of the people, and thousands of dollars in spurious eastern bills were thrown into circulation. The people who were thus imposed on, however, comforted themselves with the reflection, that the rogues had gained little by the exchange.
I have frequently spoken of the soil and qualities of the land in the places through which I have passed; and as these are the principal points which engage the attention of most people, I will venture a few more remarks on the subject, although I am sensible they must appear to be mere repetitions. These countries, collectively, have been long and loudly extolled, as exceeding all others, in point of soil and natural productions, and in a limited sense, perhaps, the boast is not altogether false; for if any reliance can be placed in my judgment, many, very many thousand acres of river bottom land, equal, if not surpass, the best lands in the state of New-York. These
50bottoms, in their natural state send forth an astonishing growth of vegetation; and when cultivated as they should be, generously repay the hand that tills them. The natural growth of timber on these lands, are sycamore, black-walnut, honey-locust, buck-eye, black-gum and pawpaw: this last bears a fruit resembling a cucumber, which some people are quite fond of. Many of these different kinds of trees grow to an enormous size. Grape vines too, of surprising luxuriance, entwine themselves around at least every fifth tree; and weeds and wild plants of an enormous growth fill up every vacancy. Some tracts of upland too may safely be pronounced good; but on an average, I think, they are not of the first quality. The timber of the uplands (remember I am speaking in general terms) is principally white-oak; with here and there a mixture of hickory, and what we call white-wood, here called poplar. Beech and maple are very rare. The soil of the upland, is almost every where the same, consisting of a whitish clay mixed sometimes with gravel, though usually with sand, insomuch, that when brick are wanted, they generally find the materials as completely mixed as the most skilful brick maker could desire. This mixture, however, is very inconvenient to the farmer; if the season is a little too wet his lands are a bed of mortar, if too dry it is so baked as to be almost impenetrable. These countries are not so level as is generally thought;
51they differ little in that respect from New York, and I verily believe, that a tract of country, cannot be produced in the Ohio valley, of an extent equal to the state of New-York, which contains as great a proportion of good farming land. Travellers are frequently deceived by false appearances; they pass through this country in the growing season, when corn stalks, wheat-straw and weeds, exhibit such a wonderfully luxuriant growth: surely, surely, they exclaim, this is the most fertile country on earth. These hasty opinions have given to the country are putation, which I sincerely think it does not deserve; the question of comparative fertility should never be decided until after harvest; in that day New-York will never blush at a comparison with her younger sisters.
J. S. W
Letter IX. Cleveland, March 13th, 1819.
I shall continue the subjects commenced in my last. The country, its advantages and disadvantages were under consideration. The water of a country is one of its most important articles; where the water is good we usually find the people healthy, and vice versa. If this will hold good as a
52general rule, and none I believe will dispute it, what must we think of the country we are speaking of? Its waters are almost universally impregnated with lime, more or less; its taste is extremely unpleasant, and its effects are almost always felt by the new settlers, especially among the little ones; it usually produces a dysentery which sweeps away the poor innocents by hundreds, before they have been a year in the country. But its ill effects are not confined to infants; adults must undergo a seasoning, which to many constitutions is too hard a trial. I witnessed a scene at Cincinnati which will ever be impressed on my memory; a family was landing from a boat in circumstances of peculiar affliction: a widow, who had the day before, buried her husband thirty miles up the river, where he had died on their passage, now arrived with her three beautiful, interesting children. If ever, my dear friend, I felt the genuine glow of sympathy, if ever a tear of sacred pity decorated my cheek, it was on this occasion; a wretched mother, bereft other husband, her fatherless children clinging around her, far, far from all friends, thrown as it were among strangers, destitute of the means of obtaining support or even a shelter from the weather; borne down with grief, but not a solitary being to whom she might unburden her heart, from whom she could expect either counsel or relief. But however affecting the situation of this poor forlorn wanderer was to
53me, I soon found that her case was by no means a singular one; instances of this kind frequently occur among the emigrants; some of which have been within my own knowledge. One man whom I left sick at Hamilton, died before his family had got in readiness to embark. Another died at Cincinnati during my stay there, who had seven children with him; some of them however were of age: no attention was paid to this family during the sickness of the father, the funeral charges cost them thirteen dollars. The last season was said to have been uncommonly sickly. At fort Harrison and its vicinity, it is said, one fourth part of the inhabitants died in the short space of three months: Harmony Society on the Wabash lost a great number of its members of the same fever: in the burying ground at Vincennes I counted about fifty graves which appeared to have been made within a year; speaking of this, brings to recollection a circumstance that nothing but my sincere intention of representing facts and objects just as they exist, could induce me to mention. The church-yard belonging to the largest religious society at Cincinnati, presented a most disgraceful instance of a total indifference to the sanctity of the sepulchre, and repose of the dead; it is entirely unenclosed, lying open to the streets, with wagon roads over the graves, and many of the headstones broken down; and in this situation, it has, I am informed, remained for several
54years: the subject, I was pleased to find, had at length attracted attention, several severe remarks have appeared in the public prints, and I hope for the honor of human nature this foul stain may shortly be wiped away. But to return to my subject, I was speaking of the water of the country, but, I scarcely know how, got to descanting on very different topics. I asserted that the waters were almost universally impregnated with lime and tasted extremely unpleasant; I now add, that generally, where the land is best, there the water is worst. — The rich bottom lands are intersected by bayaus, or inlets, which receive water from the rivers at their rise, and retain them to stagnate, and putrify, during the excessive heat of the summer, a season that the most hardy anticipate with unpleasant apprehensions. One of the bad effects, perhaps the most pernicious, of the insalubrity of the water, is, that it forms an apology for drinking ardent spirits, commonly whiskey; such quantities of this vile liquid are consumed in the country, that distilling may be considered the safest and most profitable business that is carried on; the demand for it is so steady that if a person wants only half a barrel he must bespeak it some time before it is called for, and it is a common thing, to see the Jugs of the customers, stand waiting their turn to receive the poisonous drug as it runs from the still. The distiller pays twenty-five cents per bushel for corn
55and usually gets seventy-five, per gallon, for the whiskey: hence you may judge the profits of the business, and of the state of society, where it is thus supported. These distilleries are the curse of the country; more deadly in their effects than the tree of Java, they are fatal not only to the animal life, but to the moral and intellectual. The Bohon Upas destroys only the body; while it is greatly to be feared, the baleful influence of whiskey endangers the soul.
In speaking of the soil of this country, there is one circumstance I have hitherto omitted, but is too important to be neglected: it is incapable of withstanding the effects of a long drought. The rains here fall so heavily that the surface of the earth becomes, as it were, a bed of mortar, and is so filled with water, that notwithstanding the great proportion of clay, it seems to be incapable of retaining it, but suffers it to leak off so rapidly that subterranean streams are formed, which, no doubt, cause those great sinks in the land, which are so frequently to be seen, and occasion, by their under-drains, the springs to become dry, almost as soon as the rivers. Hence arises, that standing apology for the negligent culture of the land. It is a favorite maxim that the less the ground is stired, the longer it will retain its moisture — hence they never plough, and seldom hoe their corn; hence it is that seeding with English grass is much neglected: it cannot withstand the extreme
56heat of the summer, and the nimble Will I have before mentioned, soon chokes it out of the field. Hence too, it is, that these people have a ready excuse for their idleness; having planted their corn, they have little more to do, and their leisure hours are spent in hunting, gambling, and loitering about the stills and whiskey shops; leaving all the care of business, and whatever labor may be requisite, to be done by the women, whose task seems to be augmented almost in the same ratio that the labor of the men is diminished. I mentioned the rapid rise of the Ohio in one of my former letters, but at that time I knew nothing of the height, or ill consequences, of these inundations. It is an undeniable fact that the Ohio, in many places, will sometimes rise, and that very suddenly, to the astonishing height of forty five feet, and other streams in proportion. What effect such floors must have on the face of the county, on roads, bridges, mills, travelling and business, you can more easily imagine than I describe. I have said that cattle do not thrive well, and I repeat the remark; because I believe a very different idea is generally entertained; perhaps it is partly owing to the indolence of the people, for their cattle are as much neglected as their land; but I am induced to believe it is rather the effect of local causes: their feed is less nutricious, and the flies torment them almost to madness. I am satisfied, that it can never be a dairy
57country, for their cows certainly do not give half the milk that ours do: but, with a little care and attention, vast quantities of beef and hides, and some tallow, might be produced for exportation. The same remark will apply to hogs; they are now raised with very little care or trouble, but an industrious population might raise pork in quantities which would almost defy calculation.
Mill seats are scarce and consequently held above their value; indeed this is the case with real property of every description, and I have sometimes found myself smiling rather audibly, to hear a planter valuing a tract of land at fifty, perhaps eighty, nay, sometimes, one hundred dollars the acre, which would not sell for half the money, did it lie in the neighbourhood of Albany or Poughkeepsie. The scarcity of mill-seats and the difficulty, from the nature of the ground, of keeping up dams, has led to the use of steam, horse and ox power. The construction of their horse and ox mills is ingenious, and they grind corn much faster than one would expect. So little is thought of a dairy, that in all my pilgrimage through the lower country, I have known of but one family that made cheese. I called for a breakfast in the Miami country, and the good lady treated me with a dish of coffee, fried pork, corn bread, some butter, and a precious morsel of cheese. This last was a rarity indeed, and on the whole it was a better
58meal than I had tasted for a month previous. I shall probably write you again before I leave this place.
J. S. W.
Letter X. Cleveland, March 16th, 1819.
MY DEAR SIR,
I expect you feel an anxiety to hear something of this place and its neighbourhood, and I would joyfully attempt to gratify you: but we must both be patient. I have many fine things yet to say about the lower countries and until I have said them, I can talk on no other subject. We have been discussing the advantages and disadvantages of the country below at large: if I have said more about the latter than the former, I have at least two weighty and cogent reasons for so doing; the first is, because these advantages are few in number; the second, because they are all engrossed. I have stated, and I now repeat, that there are many wealthy people, who reside, almost to a man, in the large towns; they are engaged in, and control, almost all the profitable business of the country, and every man of capital, that removes there, from the east or north, uniformly invests his property in the same or similar schemes, Their
59business may continue profitable some time longer, but eventually, must decline. The spirit of rivalship will soon destroy the profits of the manufacturers, and land-jobbing has already become dull in the section of country we are considering: in the rage of speculating, many men bought in at extravagant rates and must sell at a loss. Those who now expect to make a profit by the rise of land, must resort to the Obine, Missouri and Arkansas. From what I have said you will perceive the truth of these remarks, that to the poor man every avenue to wealth is sealed up — that the advantages of the country are engrossed by (comparatively speaking) a few men, and that this body of citizens pay no attention to the great source of all profit, the cultivation of the earth: — the agricultural interests being left to the management of the indolent, loitering, tipling race of mortals, I have so often spoken of, and, I think, by this time, you have some idea of their skill and assiduity. I have frequently had occasion to mention the sameness or want of variety, which overspreads these regions: it prevails indeed to a degree that I believe to he unparalelled on the face of the civilized earth: I speak in general terms, and exceptions are always supposed: with this proviso, a description of one tract of country, one river bottom, one bayau, one body of upland, one country town, one plantation, one family, and one pack of dogs, would with a little addition of light
60or shade, (as the case might be) afford a tolerably correct representation of any, or every other object of the same denomination, which would be seen in a course of two months travelling. I will give you a specimen. A log house, containing one room — chimney out side — chinks of the logs filled with mud — one or more windows — the sash filled with old hats, cradle-blankets, petticoats, paper or glass, according to the taste, fortune or whim of the owner — a log barn with in open threshing-floor — the grain stacked out — a corn crib or two of poles — a little coin in each — a log stable, and a log spring house, when they are so fortunate as to have a spring. The family who inhabit this splendid mansion, are clothed in linsey-woolsey. The men and boys wear hunting shirts and leggins; you will excuse me from attempting to describe the costume of the ladies, as, with all my veneration for the fair sex, I am quite unequal to the task. I would only remark that stripe seemed to be the favorite material. When an eastern traveller passes, he is usually complimented with an enlivening peal of vocal musick, from a full choir of canine performers, who keep time and chord most admirably, except now and then, for a few moments, when they just stop to bite a little: should the traveller return this piece of civilily, by gently tapping their heads with his cudgel (just to let them know he understands beating time,) and by this means break up the
61concert, his ears will probably be greeted by the enchanting sound of a female voice, sweetly pronouncing accents like these "see! there goes a yankey, only do but see how he looks — all dressed up, in a cloth coat, and cloth jacket, and cloth trousers." Should the traveller turn his eye toward the house, at this interesting and critical moment, he would, probably, be blessed with a glimpse of the fair damsel, whose curiosity no had excited, as she modestly peeps, like John Rogers' wife in the primer, from behind a dozen half-naked smiling cherubs, who fill up the door-way: and happy, indeed, twice happy, should that yankey think himself, who escapes without losing his heart, or a slice from the calf of his leg. One may travel here an hundred miles without finding a bridge: a school-house is rarely to be seen; a church more seldom still.
62Perhaps it would be profitable for an unbeliever in divine revelation (if a man of this stamp can be found who is otherwise a man of sense) to lake a tour through this country. He might here see, what so many of them have pretended a desire to see — society without religion: with minds free and unshackled: not a particle of traditional prejudice to warp their understandings; their reason left free and unbiased, and no human impediments to prevent them from "choosing the good and refusing the evil." Yes, such a state of society exists, and an infidel would be appalled at a view of it. A glance would be sufficient; he would see the long black catalogue of proofs that our nature is depraved, sunk as it were, in a sea of moral polution, to a depth that human assistance cannot reach, from whence divine power alone can save: where love divine only would look. Yes, I repeat it, such a state of society exists, and the proofs of it are open, palpable, undeniable and undenied. Although every county has its scat of justice, as they are termed, yet people, most frequently, depend on their own personal powers, for the redress of their real or imaginary grievances; and the most powerful arm generally wins the cause; except when, as has sometimes happened, the knife or dirk of one of the combatants ends the awful conflict. This heathenish mode of deciding controversies is so frequently resorted to, that the sight of persons disfigured
63by having an eye gouged out, or a nose, lip, ear, or finger bit off, is too common to excite surprise or disgust, after a person has been a short time in the country.
From the absence of religious impressions, arises, no doubt, the frequency of breaches and dissolutions of the matrimonial contract, and the numerous instances of people who have left families in the eastern States, being permitted to live here in a state of open, undisguised adultery. To the same cause too, may be fairly attributed, the inordinate avarice and desire of over-reaching, which is so prominent a trait in the character of this people, from the great, landholder who persuades you to purchase a farm at triple its value, who recommends, as salubrious, a situation where the settler would lose half his family the first year, who would induce you to buy a town lot, at an exhorbitant price, on a spot where three log cabins will never be found within gun-shot, or try to sell you a mill-seat, on a stream that would not drive a grindstone, three months of the twelve — down, through every humbler grade of paltry take-ins, to the lazy, avaricious clown, who will not assist the traveller to cross the swollen brook, or even guide his steps the shortest distance, without demanding an extortionate recompence for his services: — from the pompous Nabob who will defraud you of a thousand dollars, with all imaginable politeness, down to the profane, quarrelsome, whiskey-blotched
64boatman, who will fell twenty lies, or swear twenty oaths, to cheat, or bully you out of sixpence. I am weary of the subject and hasten to conclude though I have by no means exhausted it: after reviewing every circumstance on both sides of the question, I have no hesitation in saying, that I would rather have a conveniently situated farm in one of the New-England states, or in New-York, than almost any that could be offered in the south western country: and, I sometimes could wish it was possible, to extend a warning voice to every family in the east: to bid them beware, how they suffer themselves to be seduced from their comfortable homes, and transport themselves to a country, which, to the poorer class at least, is a "bourn, from whence few families return:" — and that they never, on any conditions, or under any circumstances, remove their families, until they have first seen and judged for themselves. That country has been highly extolled for its fertility, the mildness of its climate, the facility of getting a living, and the wealth of the inhabitants: on the first point, I have already expressed my opinion decidedly; on the second, I remark, that I prefer snow to mud:
65in the east, would content themselves with just such living as the western people enjoy, they may remain where they are and a very moderate share of labor will he sufficient to acquire it: on the fourth, that (speculators &c. excepted) if the people of that country are really wealthy, they possess the art of hiding their riches, in a greater decree than any people I ever saw or read of; for, I believe it is the last thing of which a traveller would accuse or suspect them,
But however others may judge of the country, for myself, I will close with saying, that I shall never cease to be grateful to the wise and kind Disposer of all events; that my disappointments prevented me from removing my family at once, as I had originally intended. You will probably hear from me again, as I propose taking a view of the Holland Purchase before I return home.
J. S. W.
Letter XI. Fredonia, Chatauque Co. N.Y. April 15th, 1819.
My DEAR SIR,
IN my last from Cleveland, I suggested the probability of my writing again:
66I had however little idea, at that time, of taking the tour I have since performed. I proceeded as, far as Batavia on my way home, and took a pretty extensive view of the eastern part of the Holland Purchase; but not being perfectly satisfied, and hearing a certain situation highly extolled in Portage county, Ohio, forty miles south of Cleveland, I was induced to return and examine it. In doing this and including the distance from Cleveland to Batavia, I have travelled five hundred miles, since I left the Conner place. The particular object that drew me back, did not exactly meet my wishes; but the Connecticut-Reserve (in which it is situated) is in general, a fine body of land for farming: the water is tolerably good; but the immense number of marshes, ponds and small lakes, which are spread over the country, are certainly an inconvenience, and one would naturally suppose might be injurious to health: the inhabitants, however, say otherwise, and their florid looks give a pleasing assurance of the truth of their assertions. — There is a tract of land running parallel with the Lake, from three to five miles in width, on which the Lake road runs. The soil is a mixture of gravel and loam, and it appears as pleasant and productive as could be wished. The timber is chiefly oak and chestnut, with some other kinds intermixed of a really heavy growth. Further back the country is handsomely rolling and well watered, the
67timber chiefly beech and maple, though white oak is quite frequent, the soil is generally a dark loam with sometimes a mixture of gravel. There are many handsome and well cultivated farms, with large and convenient houses: the barns well filled and the cattle looking thrifty. The inhabitants are principally from Connecticut: an industrious, enterprising people; and the difference between industry and indolence, was never more strikingly displayed than in the two sections of Ohio I have lately been exploring; for the north is by far the best cultivated, and the people appear to be thriving in full proportion to their assiduity. The beautiful rolling make of the land, the ever varying scenery. Use extensive improvements, the elegant, painted houses, the lofty spires of the village churches, and even the sportive groups of decently clothed, well-behaved children, going to, or returning from school, form so strong a contrast with the dull uniformity of the land, mean habitations, slovenly apparel and coarse manners, of the people of the lower country, that the traveller is almost led to believe himself transported to a land inhabited by a different order of beings. The charm is complete, when the easy manners, refined conversation and open, cheerful countenances of the people, assure him a welcome reception in every house he enters. This tract (Connecticut Reserve) in point of soil and fertility is equal, perhaps, to the
68best parts of New-York, and was it within the limits of that state, I could certainly recommend it, to those who are determined to emigrate: but, my friend, it is within the jurisdiction of Ohio, and that circumstance, alone, is sufficient, in my estimation to reduce its value, at least fifteen percent. This opinion, may, perhaps, appear somewhat fastidious and romantic: but I am serious in it, and were you as well acquainted with the government, laws and institutions of that state as I believe myself to he, I should entertain no doubts of your hearty concurrence in my opinion.
The town of Cleveland is situated on lake Erie, two hundred miles, west by south, from Buffalo, at the mouth of the Cayuhoga river within the Connecticut reserve. It is a pleasant, flourishing place, and being the first town of eastern people I had entered, after leaving Hamilton, I felt myself quite at home, although at so great a distance, and passed the time I was by business detained there so agreeably, that I was soon perfectly restored to my usual health and spirits. It was the endearing society of the east, and I felt the powerful ties by which nature attaches us to the objects of our early affections.
Chatauque is the most western county of New-York; it is bounded on the east by Catteraugus, south and west by Pennsylvania, and by Jake Erie on the north. It contains large tracts of excellent land covered
69with a fine growth of every kind of timber natural to the climate, the surface gently undulating, the soil, in general, a dark loam mixed with gravel; and water is plenty and of the best quality. The soil seems perfectly natural to the best kinds of grain, fruit and grass; and the streams are stored with a variety of excellent fish. Its situation, with respect to markets, is truly admirable, the farmer may choose between the Canada, the New-York and the Ohio markets; at the latter, his butter and cheese, will always command the highest price, having the preference to their own, which is, not unfrequently, tainted by the noxious plants I have mentioned. This county is included in the Holland Purchase: the agent Mr. W. Peacock, lives in Maysville, at the head of Chautaugue lake, seven miles from the lake Erie road. Lands sell from three to five dollars; eight years credit; two without interest. This, I think, is the best chance for obtaining good land, I have yet met with. Early frosts have never injured corn here, since the first settlement, nor have droughts ever seriously affected the crops of any kind.
The north west township, called Ripley, I think the pleasantest part of the tract; in that town; about five; miles south of the lake road, excellent lots may be had at five dollars per acre, on the usual credit. The land insensibly rises from the lake towards the land in question, perhaps two hundred
70feet; it is a beautiful rolling tract of country, covered with beech, maple, ash, elm, lyme and other timber, chequered with numerous limpid streams, meandering in every direction; the land generally inclining to the south and west. Here, my dear sir, I have found a situation, far more agreeable to my mind, than any place I have seen in my six months' wanderings; a situation which nearly answers (if the thing be possible) the exalted notions I had entertained of the south western country. If every person who has imbibed the same high opinion of Indiana, Illinois, &c. would first take a view of Chatauque he might perhaps avoid the life of corroding reflection and bitter regret, that so many, within my knowledge, are now leading. There are many families here, who have been over the whole ground, but finding no situation to their mind, and having the means in their possession, returned, and at length, settled here, declaring themselves perfectly satisfied, in the election they have made. It would be unpardonable not to mention, that wherever I have been, the men of talents, information and enlarged views, speak of the state of New-York, in terms of high encomium. It seems generally to be considered, the first state in the Union, and its laws, courts, institutions and usages are quoted as the highest authority. The grand canal, in particular, is at this time the leading subject of inquiry, and its progress is viewed with deep interest, and increasing
71admiration. I felt, I must acknowledge, some little degree of state pride, to hear a Virginian of some eminence, declare, that none but Yorkers could originate the bold conception of uniting lake Erie with the Atlantic, and that New-York alone was equal to the task of completing a project, which the general government very modestly declined. Many merchants on the Ohio, men of business and practical knowledge, gave it as their opinion, that when the canal is finished, goods may be transported from the city of New-York, on that route, as low down as St. Louis, cheaper than from New-Orleans. The steam-boat proprietors of the Ohio, of course, look with some degree of apprehension, at the rapid progress of the work; it may possibly interrupt the march of their monopolies; the time may come when they will no longer think it prudent, to charge five dollars per hundred for the transportation of goods from New-Orleans to the falls of Ohio, and one hundred dollars for a passenger the same distance; but the owners, and consumers of goods, will be benefited; and they rejoice in the prospect of a completion of the stupendous undertaking. "New-York and Cincinnati, say they, will be, by this means, brought within two hundred miles of each other, and the east and west will be united, in the powerful bond of mutual interest and reciprocal advantages." I was happy to find by the papers I saw in Batavia, that all parties in our state are at
72length united in support of this grand undertaking; it will open an inland water communication, such as no country on earth can equal. When completed, the Michigan territory will present a wide field for the surplus population of the east; there an active, industrious and moral people, may transplant their excellent institutions. The soil, I am informed, is of a superior quality, and the climate more congenial to northern constitutions, than the sultry swamps or scorched prairies, of the lower countries. As I expect to set out on my return in a few days, your patience will no longer be taxed with the dull detail of my wanderings.
JOHN S. WRIGHT.
"By missionaries, who have explored the western parts of the United States and estimated their wants, it is reported, that in Tennessee there were 10,000 families, in Louisiana 8,000, in the Mississippi Territory 5,000, in Missouri, Illinois and Indiana, 12,000, in Ohio 13,000, and in the state of Kentucky 30,000 families without a copy of the Word of Life."