Travel, abolitionists, meeting Indians on the way to Washington to sign treaty
Oct. 30, 1837
The recipient, Martha M Guild, was 34 when this was received.
The following was written 182 years, 13 days ago.
It was a Monday.
Alton, October 30, 1837
My Dear Aunt Martha,
So confident I am that you are looking with much interest for your first letter from the “west” that notwithstanding we have been here but a fortnight and are not as we shall be, when we get our furniture, yet I will not delay giving you my first impressions.
I suppose you have had some account from Mother before this, of our journey, and safe arrival here. We had allowed on starting, three weeks for our passage, but did not anticipate any detention beyond our control, but the Ohio River is very remarkably low, in consequence of which the steam boats are liable to strike on what are called sand-bars, and it is sometimes with much difficulty they can get off. Thus, we were detained several times, and at one time 48 hours, so that we were 24 days coming from B. to A. Since our arrival, people have come on in 14 days but they took smaller boats which can go with very little water, and the reason that we did not do this was, the accommodations and fare are so inferior to the larger class of boats.
I cannot describe to you my dear Aunt my feelings on leaving my beloved friends. And although I had long accustomed myself to think of the parting hour, yet I found the reality quite as severe a task as I had ever allowed myself to suppose. I felt not for myself, but for my beloved parents, particularly Mother, who above all others was bereft and left alone, but I felt very thankful that I could command my feelings in a good measure as I wished not to add to her sorrow by my suffering on her account. As for myself, I felt that on leaving a beloved home I had associated my interest and happiness with one whom I had long sincerely loved, and who daily has proved himself a tender and empathizing husband. Under any other circumstances I think I never could have been induced to leave so far behind the circle of my dearest attachments and I cannot now realize that I am eighteen-hundred miles from my dear friends and acquaintances.
In coming this long distance I have seen so much that is new to me, and have seen such a variety of people that instead of six weeks, it seems six months since I left you-- We have become acquainted with people from almost every state in the union, but the majority of people seem to be traveling from east to west, although many from the southern states are constantly immigrating here. From the commencement to the end of our journey, I was constantly in the habit of comparing each new city, town, or village with Boston, but with all the impartiality I could muster, I found no rival for her in my own estimation. With New York, I was well pleased on the whole, but with some parts of it very much delighted. There is more magnificence and taste displayed in the private dwellings in the most genteel parts of that city, than I have ever seen in our best streets, and with all the indications of wealth and prosperity, it is not as clean and tidy as Philadelphia, yet its location is much preferable and more conducive to health were proper means used. We spent the first Sabbath very pleasantly in N. Y. and heard Dr. Brownlee preach in the morning, Mr. Deerfield in the afternoon. The following week was spent going to Phil., Balt., Washington and back to Balt. to spend the next Sabbath.
With our seat of government, I was not pleased. We stopped there a few days, visited the Senate, House of Representatives, President’s house, and were located on Pennsylvania Avenue so that we saw all the lions of the city. The Capitol is superb in its exterior and interior but I am not architect enough to describe it with my pen and I think the Senate chamber the most comfortable “school-room” I ever saw. There is everything in the arrangement of the room conducive to the most quiet sleep, and I could fill a sheet in describing the numberless fixtures for ease and convenience as well as for elegance We were not permitted to explore the President’s dwelling house any farther than the spacious drawing room–receiving parlour, and private parlour. The receiving room is one in which he sees company every day from ten o’ clock until noon, and is newly furnished with blue satin chairs, gilt backs, and curtains of the same colour. As it was not the hour for company, we did not see his majesty. We returned to Baltimore on Saturday, stopped at the Eaton House which is the finest house in the city. This place seems more like Boston than any other city I have seen, in its appearance, streets, & c. It was with difficulty we could ascertain about the churches as no one at the Hotel seemed to understand about the Presbyterian churches so we went where we pleased and happened in at a splendid Episcopal church, and heard a very orthodox sermon. It is not customary for the Presbyterians to have a second service in the day, but they have one in the morning.
On Monday morning we took the cars for Frederick, a small city about 64 miles from B. and from thence crossed the Allegheny Mts. by the day stage, preferring to see all that is visible to the eye from these lofty elevations to hastening on riding night and day. The scenery around these mountains especially from their summit is too sublime for my pen; it is awfully grand I assure you. We were just four days in crossing and reached the Ohio on Thursday evening. These mountains have each a name and the grand Allegheny is the most lofty, and its summit is 36 miles from its base, but I have forgotten how many hours we were in ascending. To a novice in traveling, like myself , there is something constantly presenting itself to our notice, which would seem trifling to one more experienced.
Just before we reached Wheeling, we met five stages crowded with Indians on their way to Washington to make a treaty concerning lands. It was about eight in the evening and very dark, but it happened that they stopped to water their horses just as we came up and our company proposed alighting to see them, and having a lantern we had a fine chance to do it. I happened to be the first lady to pay my addresses and was very cordially greeted by the hand, but I almost shrank from such a grasp, for such a giant race I never saw. They were almost naked and painted in a most curious looking manner, and when they saw me they said something which I did not understand about squaw, whether complimentary or not, I cannot say. This journey in the stage included all the fatigue which I experienced in coming the whole distance, which was just nothing to speak of, for I was blessed with a wonderful appetite and I reckon I got my money’s worth of good eating, at every stopping place.
Well, then we get to the river, and then we are at once not only comfortably but delightfully situated on a Western Steamboat, which for comfort, style, and fare was all you could wish, that is, a large one, which are superior to our eastern boats although we had no specimen of an usual passage down the river, yet our detentions were not tedious at all to me, for I was remarkably well, could enjoy eating, drinking, and sleeping to perfection, and then we had a fine stateroom to retire into for reading, visiting, and working, when tired of promenading the deck or being in the midst of company in the public cabin. As to good company, we had no luck nor will it ever happen in coming this way. For some days we had three clergyman on board.
If you wish to see a fair country and lovely scenery just take a trip down the Ohio. We touched at all the towns on both sides, but did not tarry long enough at all of them for us to go on shore. We were fortunate to have an opportunity to see something of Cincinnati as we changed boats there and had an afternoon to run about in, and happened to blunder upon a meeting of teachers as we saw a church open, but were too late to hear much, but I should think the convention unlike our American Institute. This is a fine city especially for the western country, and its location is unusually fine as it stands very high from the river and is regularly built. But I anticipated too much of this place and found it not to handsome as I had expected. There is not that finished elegance about it that you see in our eastern cities, and indeed there is a perceptible difference in the towns and villages on this side of the mountains from the eastern side. The house and land of the farmer does not look so neat and trim here as New England, and there seems to be a lack of ambition in everything of the kind. The natives of this luxurious soil have been enabled to obtain a substance by very little labour which makes them very indolent compared with a yankee farmer.
Louisville and St. Louis are the largest places we passed after C. but I did not go into either except just passing through a few streets in haste in the latter, which is altogether a better looking place than I had supposed. As we came into Alton in the evening I could not get a view of it from the river, but it is delightfully situated and is built upon high bluffs which when it is more built up will give it a grand appearance, but it is now just begun compared to other cities. I think it bids fair to be a great and important city. I am so delighted with our room that I have not been out but once or twice since I came. I wish you could but see how pleasantly we are situated and we are very much____our domicile as board and houses are difficult to be obtained here, and cost very high which shows that money is made.
The attention of every stranger is attracted to this house as it is the most genteel, and commanding situation in the place. It stands very high and immediately overlooks every inch of the city, and we have the pleasantest room in the house so I consider we have the pleasantest room in the western country. I have become acquainted with quite a number of fine people although we do not receive any calls until our furniture comes. We could not wish for pleasanter people with whom to board than Mr. & Mrs. Clark. They are young folks and both from Conn. People here feel differently from us in regard to living here as most of them consider themselves settlers for life, but we are merely staying for the time present and have no idea whatever of giving up N. England for this great valley.
My next must give you more account of society here as a fortnight is too short a time to know much about it. I have not heard our minister preach as he has been absent at a convention since we came but I was introduced to him at James’ store yesterday. He says he shall give us an early visit with his wife. His people say he is a jade unpolished genuine good faithful man and withal a warm abolitionist. I cannot say much about it for want of time but I am in the midst of abolition, and excitement.
Were my husband an abolitionist, I should tremble at this time as the mob are now trying to get the ascendancy in regard to the press of the abolitionist paper which has been destroyed twice by them and a third is expected hourly which will be defended strongly by the Mayor and citizens. This Mobocracy has been winked at by people because it was against abolition but now measures are being taken to secure order, but I fear some trouble will be the consequence. Although every good citizen is ready to act yet James is so indulgent as to keep away from all the excitement and take care of his wife, and as he is not an abolitionist it will do. I cannot let him help fight so we are free. Mr. Beecher lectured last night in our church on the subject but the abolitionists had to attend armed and headed by the Mayor who is not an antislavery man but finds he must begin to act.
Thursday November 1
I find dear Aunt that an opportunity presents itself for sending to B. by private conveyance although I intended to put this in the office.
I will hurry to finish it to send with one I shall write Mother. I got a packet yesterday which was very sweet I assure you, but you can hardly judge of the value of letters coming so far from beloved friends.
A boat came up late last night from N. O. which brought our furniture and we are surprised to see it so soon. It is not landed yet so I do not know whether it is injured or not, but shall probably get sight of it before night.
My very dear Aunt Martha, as happy as I am you know not how much I think of you all and often ask myself; is it possible that I have always loved my friends so well but if life and health are spared we shall see you again in a few months. My health has certainly been benefited by this tour, as I am much stronger than I have been for a great while and feel remarkably well and have a voracious appetite. I must speak of the weather here for I never saw such a beautiful climate. I have seen scarcely a cloud nor any mist or fog and I have reason to think that this place is uncommonly healthy throughout the year. It is just cool enough now to have a little fire, but it has been very warm for many weeks past.
When I get our room arranged I shall expect you to come in some evening without ceremony and bring your knitting. Give a great deal of love to grandfather and grandmother and you must think of me as surrounded with every thing that a tender devoted husband can provide. I must look for a long letter from you soon ___________. Excuse my not filling the sheet.
Your very aff. niece, Elizabeth.
James desires his love to your household