Travels in North America, From Modern Writers
For the purpose of visiting the property of a gentleman who resided in the vicinity of Fishkill, a creek somewhat more than sixty miles from New York, Mr. Fearon took his passage in a steam-boat. He paid for his fare three dollars and a half, and the voyage occupied somewhat more than eight hours. The vessel was of the most splendid description. It contained one hundred and sixty beds; and the ladies had a distinct cabin. On the deck were numerous conveniences, such as baggage-rooms, smoking-rooms, &c. The general occupation, during the voyage, was card-playing. In the houses of two gentlemen whom Mr. Fearon visited near Fishkill, he was much gratified by the style of living, the substantial elegance of the furniture, and the mental talents of the company. Here he found both comfort and cleanliness, requisites which are scarcely known in America.
In a general summary of his opinion respecting persons desirous of emigrating from England to America, Mr. Fearon says, that the capitalist may obtain, for his money, seven per cent. with good security. The lawyer and the doctor will not succeed. An orthodox minister would do so. The proficient in the fine arts will find little encouragement. The literary man must starve. The tutor's posts are all occupied. The shopkeeper may do as well, but not better than in London, unless he be a man of superior talent, and have a large capital: for such requisites there is a fine opening. The farmer must labour hard, and be but scantily remunerated. The clerk and shopman will get but little more than their board and lodging. Mechanics, whose trades are of the first necessity, will do well: but men who are not mechanics, and who understand only the cotton, linen, woollen, glass, earthenware, silk, or stocking manufactories, cannot obtain employment. The labouring man will do well; particularly if he have a wife and children who are capable of contributing, not merely to the consuming, but also to the earning of the common stock.
Narrative of Mr. Fearon's Journey from New York to Boston
ON the 8th of September this gentleman left New York for Boston. After a passage of twelve hours, the vessel in which he sailed arrived at New Haven, a city in Connecticut, distant from New York, by water, about ninety miles. This place has a population of about five thousand persons, and has the reputation of ranking among the most beautiful towns in the United States. [It is situated at the head of a bay, between two rivers, and contains about five hundred houses, which are chiefly built of wood, but on a regular plan: it has also several public edifices, and about four thousand inhabitants. The harbour is spacious, well protected, and has good anchorage. There is at New Haven a college, superintended by a president, a professor in divinity, and three tutors.]
From this place Mr. Fearon proceeded to New London, a small town on the west side of the river Thames. Here he took a place in the coach for Providence. American stages are a species of vehicles with which none in England can be compared. They carry twelve passengers: none outside. The coachman, or driver, sits inside with the company. In length they are nearly equal to two English stages. Few of them go on springs. The sides are open; the roof being supported by six small posts. The luggage is carried behind, and in the inside. The seats are pieces of plain board; and there are leathers which can be let down from the top, and which, though useful as a protection against wet, are of little service in cold weather.
The passengers breakfasted at Norwich, a manufacturing and trading town, about fourteen miles from New London; and, at six o'clock in the evening, they arrived at New Providence, the capital of Rhode Island, having occupied thirteen hours in travelling only fifty miles. In the general appearance of the country, Mr. Fearon had been somewhat disappointed. All the houses within sight from the road were farm-houses. He remarks that, in Connecticut and Rhode Island, the land was stony, and the price of produce was not commensurate to that of labour.
On entering Providence, Mr. Fearon was much pleased with the beauty of the place. In appearance, it combined the attractions of Southampton and Doncaster, in England. There are, in this town, an excellent market-house, a workhouse, four or five public schools, an university with a tolerable library, and an hospital. Several of the churches are handsome, but they, as well as many private houses, are built of wood painted white, and have green Venetian shutters. Mr. Fearon had not seen a town either in America or Europe which bore the appearance of general prosperity, equal to Providence. Ship and house-builders were fully occupied, as indeed were all classes of mechanics. The residents of this place are chiefly native Americans; for foreign emigrants seem never to think of New England. Rent and provisions are here much lower than in New York.
At Pawtucket, four miles from Providence, are thirteen cotton manufactories; six of which are on a large scale. Mr. Fearon visited three of them. They had excellent machinery; but not more than one half of this was in operation, and the persons employed in all the manufactories combined, were not equal in number to those at one of moderate size in Lancashire.
The road from Providence to Boston is much better than that which Mr. Fearon had already passed from New London. The aspect of the country also was improved; but there was nothing in either, as to mere appearance, which would be inviting to an inhabitant of England.
From its irregularity, and from other circumstances, Boston is much more like an English town than New York. The names are English, and the inhabitants are by no means so uniformly sallow, as they are in many other parts of America. This town is considered the head quarters of Federalism in politics, and of Unitarianism in religion. It contains many rich families. The Bostonians are also the most enlightened, and the most hospitable people whom Mr. Fearon had yet seen in America: they, however, in common with all New Englanders, have the character of being greater sharpers, and more generally dishonourable, than the natives of other sections of the Union.
The Athæneum public library, under the management of Mr. Shaw, is a valuable establishment. It contained, at this time, 18,000 volumes, four thousand of which were the property of the secretary of state.
The society in Boston is considered better than that in New York. Many of the richer families live in great splendour, and in houses little inferior to those of Russell-square, London. Distinctions here exist to an extent rather ludicrous under a free and popular government: there are the first class, second class, third class, and the "old families." Titles, too, are diffusely distributed.
Boston is not a thriving, that is, not an increasing town. It wants a fertile back country; and it is too far removed from the western states to have much trade.
On an eminence, in the Mall, (a fine public walk,) is built the State House, in which the legislature holds its meetings. The view from the top of this building is peculiarly fine. The islands, the shipping, the town, the hill and dale scenery, for a distance of thirty miles, present an assemblage of objects which are beautifully picturesque. Boston was the birth-place of Dr. Franklin, and in this town the first dawnings of the American revolution broke forth. The heights of Dorchester and Bunker's Hill are in its immediate vicinity.
On the 20th of September Mr. Fearon walked to Bunker's Hill. It is of moderate height. The monument, placed here in commemoration of the victory obtained by the English over the Americans, on the 17th of June, 1776, is of brick and wood, and without inscription.
[At Cambridge, four miles from Boston, is a college, called Harvard College, in honour of the Rev. John Harvard of Charleston, who left to it his library, and a considerable sum of money. This college is upon a scale so large and liberal, as to consist of seven spacious buildings, and to contain two hundred and fifty apartments for officers and students. It has an excellent library of about 17,000 volumes, a philosophical apparatus, and a museum of natural history. The average number of students is about two hundred and sixty. Admission into this college requires a previous knowledge of mathematics, Latin, and Greek. All the students have equal rights; and each class has peculiar instructors. Degrees are here conferred, as in the English universities; and the period of study requisite for the degree of bachelor of arts is four years. The professorships are numerous. Harvard College furnishes instructors and teachers to the most distant parts of the union; and, in general, for the extent of its funds, the richness of its library, the number and character of its establishments, and the means it affords of acquiring, not only an academical, but a professional education, it is considered to be without an equal in the country. It is, however, remarked, that this college is somewhat heretical in matters of religion; as most of the theological students leave it disaffected towards the doctrine of the Trinity.]
From this place we must return to New York, for the purpose of accompanying Mr. Weld on a voyage up the river Hudson to Lake Champlain.
Third Day's Instruction.
UNITED STATES, and PART OF CANADA
Narrative of a Voyage up the River Hudson, from New York to Lake Champlain.By Isaac Weld, Esq
Mr. Weld, having taken his passage in one of the sloops which trade on the North or Hudson's river, betwixt New York and Albany, embarked on the second of July. Scarcely a breath of air was stirring, and the tide carried the vessel along at the rate of about two miles and a half an hour. The prospects that were presented to his view, in passing up this magnificent stream, were peculiarly grand and beautiful. In some places the river expands to the breadth of five or six miles, in others it narrows to that of a few hundred yards; and, in various parts, it is interspersed with islands. From several points of view its course can be traced to a great distance up the Hudson, whilst in others it is suddenly lost to the sight, as it winds between its lofty banks. Here mountains, covered with rocks and trees, rise almost perpendicularly out of the water; there a fine champaign country presents itself, cultivated to the very margin of the river, whilst neat farm-houses and distant towns embellish the charming landscapes.
After sunset a brisk wind sprang up, which carried the vessel at the rate of six or seven miles an hour for a considerable part of the night; but for some hours it was requisite for her to lie at anchor, in a place where the navigation of the river was intricate.
Early the next morning the voyagers found themselves opposite to West Point, a place rendered remarkable in the history of the American war, by the desertion of General Arnold, and the consequent death of the unfortunate Major André. The fort stands about one hundred and fifty feet above the level of the water, and on the side of a barren hill. It had, at this time, a most melancholy aspect. Near West Point the Highlands, as they are called, commence, and extend along the river, on each side, for several miles.
About four o'clock in the morning of the 4th of July, the vessel reached Albany, the place of its destination, one hundred and sixty miles distant from New York. Albany is a city which, at this time, contained about eleven hundred houses; and the number was fast increasing. In the old part of the town, the streets were very narrow, and the houses bad. The latter were all in the old Dutch taste, with the gable ends towards the street, and ornamented at the top with large iron weather-cocks; but in that part of the town which had been lately erected, the streets were commodious, and many of the houses were handsome. Great pains had been taken to have the streets well paved and lighted. In summer time Albany is a disagreeable place; for it stands in a low situation on the margin of the river, which here runs very slowly, and which, towards the evening, often exhales clouds of vapour.
[In 1817, Albany is described, by Mr. Hall, to have had a gay and thriving appearance, and nothing Dutch about it, except the names of some of its inhabitants. Being the seat of government for New York, it has a parliament-house, dignified with the name of Capitol. This stands upon an eminence, and has a lofty columnar porch; but, as the building is small, it seems to be all porch. There is a miserable little museum here, which contains a group of waxen figures brought from France, representing the execution of Louis the Sixteenth. Albany is now a place of considerable trade; and, if a canal be completed betwixt this town and Lake Erie, it will become a town of great importance.]
The 4th of July, the day of Mr. Weld's arrival at Albany, was the anniversary of the declaration of American independence. About noon a drum and trumpet gave notice that the rejoicings would immediately commence; and, on walking to a hill, about a quarter of a mile from the town, Mr. Weld saw sixty men drawn up, partly militia, partly volunteers, partly infantry, partly cavalry. The last were clothed in scarlet, and were mounted on horses of various descriptions. About three hundred spectators attended. A few rounds from a three-pounder were fired, and some volleys of small-arms. When the firing ceased, the troops returned to the town, a party of militia officers, in uniform, marching in the rear, under the shade of umbrellas, as the day was excessively hot. Having reached the town, the whole body dispersed. The volunteers and militia officers afterwards dined together, and thus ended the rejoicings of the day.
Mr. Weld remained in Albany for a few days, and then set off for Skenesborough, upon Lake Champlain, in a carriage hired for the purpose. In about two hours he arrived at the small village of Cohoz, close to which is a remarkable cataract in the Mohawk River. This river takes its rise to the north-east of Lake Oneida, and, after a course of one hundred and forty miles, joins the Hudson about ten miles above Albany. The Cohoz fall is about three miles from the mouth of this river, and at a place where its width is about three hundred yards: a ledge of rocks extends quite across the stream, and from the top of these the water falls about fifty feet perpendicular: the line of the fall, from one side of the river to the other, is nearly straight. The appearance of this cataract varies much, according to the quantity of water: when the river is full, the water descends in an unbroken sheet from one bank to the other; but, at other times, the greater part of the rocks is left uncovered.
From this place Mr. Weld proceeded along the banks of the Hudson River, and, late in the evening, reached Saratoga, thirty-five miles from Albany. This place contained about forty houses; but they were so scattered, that it had not the least appearance of a town.
Near Saratoga, on the borders of a marsh, are several remarkable mineral springs: one of these, in the crater of a rock, of pyramidical form, and about five feet in height, is particularly curious. This rock seems to have been formed by the petrifaction of the water; and all the other springs are surrounded by similar petrifactions.
Of the works thrown up at Saratoga, during the war, by the British and American armies, there were now scarcely any remains. The country around was well cultivated, and most of the trenches had been levelled by the plough. Mr. Weld here crossed the Hudson River, and proceeded, for some distance, along its eastern shore. After this the road was most wretched, particularly over a long causeway, which had been formed originally for the transporting of cannon. This causeway consisted of large, trees laid side by side. Some of them being decayed, great intervals were left, in which the wheels of the carriage were sometimes locked so fast, that the horses alone could not possibly extricate them. The woods on each side of the road had a much more majestic appearance than any that Mr. Weld had seen since he had left Philadelphia. This, however, was owing more to the great height than to the thickness of the trees, for he could not see one that appeared more than thirty inches in diameter. The trees here were chiefly oaks, hiccory, hemlock, and beech; intermixed with which appeared great numbers of smooth-barked, or Weymouth pines. A profusion of wild raspberries were growing in the woods.
After having experienced almost inconceivable difficulty, in consequence of the badness of the road; and having occupied five hours in travelling only twelve miles, Mr. Weld arrived at Skenesborough. This is a little town, which stands near the southern extremity of Lake Champlain. It consisted, at this time, of only twelve houses, and was dreadfully infested with musquitoes, a large kind of gnats, which abound in the swampy parts of all hot countries. Such myriads of these insects attacked Mr. Weld, the first night of his sleeping there, that, when he rose in the morning, his face and hands were covered with large pustules, like those of a person in the small-pox. The situation of Skenesborough, on the margin of a piece of water which is almost stagnant, and which is shaded by thick woods, is peculiarly favourable to the increase of these insects.
Shortly after their arrival in Skenesborough, Mr. Weld, and two gentlemen by whom he was accompanied, hired a boat of about ten tons burden, for the purpose of crossing Lake Champlain. The vessel sailed at one o'clock in the day; but, as the channel was narrow, and the wind adverse, they were only able to proceed about six miles before sunset. Having brought the vessel to an anchor, the party landed and walked to some adjacent farm-houses, in the hope of obtaining provisions; but they were not able to procure any thing except milk and cheese. The next day they reached Ticonderoga. Here the only dwelling was a tavern, a large house built of stone. On entering it, the party was shown into a spacious apartment, crowded with boatmen and other persons, who had just arrived from St. John's in Canada. The man of the house was a judge; a sullen, demure old gentleman, who sate by the fire, with tattered clothes and dishevelled locks, reading a book, and was totally regardless of every person in the house.
The old fort and barracks of Ticonderoga, are on the top of a rising ground, just behind the tavern: they were at this time in ruins, and it is not likely that they ever will be rebuilt; for the situation is a very insecure one, being commanded by a lofty hill, called Mount Defiance. During the great American war, the British troops obtained possession of this place, by dragging cannon and mortars up the hill, and firing down upon the fort.
Mr. Weld and his friends, on leaving Ticonderoga, pursued their voyage to Crown Point: Here they landed to inspect the old fort. Nothing, however, was to be seen but a heap of ruins; for, shortly before it was surrendered by the British troops, the powder-magazine blew up, and a great part of the works was destroyed; and, since the final evacuation of the place, the people of the neighbourhood have been continually digging in different parts, in the hope of procuring lead and iron shot. At the south side only the ditches remain perfect: they are wide and deep, and are cut through immense rocks of limestone; and, from being overgrown, towards the top, with different kinds of shrubs, they have a grand and picturesque appearance.
While the party were here, they were agreeably surprised with the sight of a large birch-canoe, upon the lake, navigated by two or three Indians, in the dresses of their nation. These made for the shore, and soon landed; and, shortly afterwards, another party arrived, that had come by land.
Lake Champlain is about one hundred and twenty miles in length, and is of various breadths: for the first thirty miles it is, in no place, more than two miles wide; beyond this, for the distance of twelve miles, it is five or six miles across; but it afterwards narrows, and again, at the end of a few miles, expands. That part called the Broad Lake, because broader than any other, is eighteen miles across. Here the lake is interspersed with a great number of islands. The soundings of Lake Champlain are, in general, very deep; in many places they are sixty and seventy, and in some even one hundred fathoms in depth.
The scenery, along the shores of the lake, is extremely grand and picturesque; particularly beyond Crown Point. Here they are beautifully ornamented with hanging woods and rocks; and the mountains, on the western side, rise in ranges one behind another, in the most magnificent manner possible.
Crossing from the head of Lake Champlain, westward to the river St. Lawrence, we shall describe the places adjacent to that river, and some of the north-western parts of the state of New York, in
A Narrative of Lieutenant Hall's Journey from Canada to the Cataract of Niagara
Mr. Hall had travelled from Montreal, in Canada, to Prescott, in a stage-waggon, which carried the mail; and he says that he can answer for its being one of the roughest conveyances on either side of the Atlantic.
The face of the country is invariably flat; and settlements have not, hitherto, spread far from the banks of the St. Lawrence.
Prescott is remarkable for nothing but a square redoubt, or fort, called Fort Wellington. The accommodations at this place were so bad that Mr. Hall, at midnight, seated himself in a light waggon, in which two gentlemen were proceeding to Brockville. These gentlemen afterwards offered him a passage to Kingston, in a boat belonging to the British navy, which was waiting for them at Brockville.
The banks of the river St. Lawrence, from the neighbourhood of Brockville, are of limestone, and from twenty to fifty feet in height. Immense masses of reddish granite are also scattered along the bed of the stream, and sometimes project from the shore. The numerous islands which crowd the approach to Lake Ontario, have all a granite basis: they are clothed with cedar and pine-trees, and with an abundance of raspberry plants. The bed of the Gananoqua is also of granite. This river is rising into importance, from the circumstance of a new settlement being formed, under the auspices of the British government, on the waters with which it communicates.
This settlement lies at the head of the lakes of the Rideau, and, in case of another American war, is meant to secure a communication betwixt Montreal and Kingston, by way of the Utawa. The settlers are chiefly disbanded soldiers, who clear and cultivate the land, under the superintendance of officers of the quarter-master-general's department. A canal has been cut to avoid the falls of the Rideau; and the communication, either by the Gananoqua, or Kingston, will be improved by locks. Kingston, which is within the Canadian dominions, is admirably situated for naval purposes.
The basis of the soil on which this town is situated is limestone, disposed in horizontal strata. Kingston contains some good houses and stores; a small theatre, built by the military, for private theatricals; a large wooden government house, and all the appendages of an extensive military and naval establishment; with as much society as can reasonably be expected, in a town but lately created from the "howling desert." The adjacent country is flat, stony, and barren. Mr. Hall says that fleets of ships occasionally lie off Kingston, several of which are as large as any on the ocean. Vessels of large dimensions were at this time building, on the spot where, a few months before, their frame-timbers had been growing.
Mr. Hall left Kingston, in a packet, for the American station of Sackett's harbour. This, after Kingston, has a mean appearance: its situation is low, its harbour is small, and its fortifications are of very different construction, both as to form and materials, from those of the former town. The navy-yard consists merely of a narrow tongue of land, the point of which affords just space sufficient for the construction of one first-rate vessel; with room for work-shops, and stores, on the remaining part of it. One of the largest vessels in the world, was at this time on the stocks. The town consists of a long street, in the direction of the river, with a few smaller streets crossing it at right angles: it covers less ground than Kingston, and has fewer good houses; but it has an advantage which Kingston does not possess, in a broad flagged footway.
The distance from Sackett's harbour to Watertown is about ten miles. This is an elegant village on the Black River. It contains about twelve hundred inhabitants, chiefly emigrants from New England. The houses are, for the most part, of wood, but tastefully finished; and a few are built of bricks.
At Watertown there was a good tavern, which afforded to Mr. Hall and his companions a luxury unusual in America, a private sitting-room, and dinner at an hour appointed by themselves. Within a few miles of Watertown the country rises boldly, and presents a refreshing contrast, of hill and valley, to the flat, heavy woods, through which they had been labouring from Sackett's harbour.
Utica, the town at which the travellers next arrived stands on the right bank of the River Mohawk, over which it is approached by a covered wooden bridge, of considerable length. The appearance of this town is highly prepossessing: the streets are spacious; the houses are large and well built; and the stores, the name given to shops throughout America, are as well supplied, and as handsomely fitted up, as those of New York or Philadelphia.
There are at Utica two hotels, on a large scale; one of which, the York House, was equal in arrangement and accommodation, to any hotel beyond the Atlantic: it was kept by an Englishman from Bath. The inhabitants, from three to four thousand in number, maintained four churches: one episcopal, one presbyterian, and two Welsh.