Travel letter; trains that travel at 35 mph; Jackson rally; Bunker Hill Monument

Date Written

May 6, 1834

History Referenced

Hale Leavitt Keyes was 19 years old when this was written.
The recipient, James Murdock Smith, was 17 when it was received.

It was written 185 years, 2 months, 12 days ago.
It was a Tuesday.

I received your catalogue did Stephen get the picture I sent him?

Boston May 6,1834

Dear James,

I received your letter the first inst. and am very thankful to you for so long an account of matters and things. I will try in this to pay you at least in words if not in sentiment. I have been here now two months. The first six weeks I traveled the streets and run out of town and made all discoveries possible. I have explored Boston to the extent almost, I have been to the Navy yard in Charlestown twice. This was a great curiosity to me and I presume would be to you, to see what great things man can accomplish by perseverance and industry. The Dry Dock is something worth seeing. This Dry Dock I presume you have heard of but your not having seen it I will give you some idea by way of description:

There is by the side of the water a ditch cut through the wharf into the ground sufficiently large to admit the largest ships say a dozen rods long and three or four rods wide and three feet deep and is completely lined with hewn stone so that its water tight. When the tide is up they open the gates and float in a ship and when the tide goes down the close the gates and what water remains in is pumped out by Steam Powers in the mean time they set props under the vessel to keep it from falling on the side which it would do when the water is taken away if not supported. Thus the ship is out of the water perfectly dry and in a commodious place to repair.

They have the old Constitution in the Dock now repairing and have lately put on the Figure Head Andrew Jackson and tomorrow morning if pleasant I shall go over there and see it (it is very rainy today). Oh I have got a piece of the old Constitution and had a rule made of it and if I ever come to Gouverneur I will show it to you. I mean to keep it for my children. There are many other curiosities here.

To see large ships, Men of War laying in and out of the water ready to fight if called to and there are guns enough here to blow up a nation if all used at once--there is half an acre covered with canon and canon balls. And there is some great anchors here too. I noticed the mark on one said (9161 lbs). I thinks I to myself this would be a funny thing for Uncle Joel to mend if it should get broke.

Next comes Bunker Hill this place I thought would be worth seeing, but I was disappointed. Bunker Hill Monument we have ever heard so much about is much a pile of hewn stone 26 feet square and forty feet high as it is it looks rather mean to make such a fuss about but there is hopes of it being finished this summer and that will do very well.

My amusements have been few; since I have been here I have attended the theatre once (think I shall not go again) it is a bad place. The museum I have not attended so I can't tell you any thing about that. I have seen one Paddy fight since I have been here of ten or a dozen all at it at once and were parted only by their wives who thrust them down cellars and that ended the fray (now I am on the fighting business).

I attended a Jackson political meeting at Faneuil Hall one evening which was about as civil as the Paddy fight in fact it was some like it for when the speaker got to the end of a sentence they would begin to Hoorah (the Jackson party would) and the opposition party would hiss which made the other party mad and at them they went, would go drag them to top of the stairs and kick them down heels over heads. For my part I thought it dangerous being safe in such a place and not being able to get out safe. I got myself up in one corner of the hall on the seats and stood still to see 5 or 6 thousand men Hattooing and swaring and fighting. Some got bloody faces. Some their coats tore off and all a tremendous squeezing. I made up my mind that they were mean men and as it was safe passing I got out and cut dirt for home.

The churches here are somewhat larger than ours in Gouverneur and musick somewhat better which is accompanied by the sound (thunder I thought the first time I heard it) of an organ that makes the very seat you set on quake, although they have better music her yet I think I have heard as good preaching in Gouverner and in fact better.

Yesterday morning I called on Amos G. Thompson for the first time, he appeared quite pleased to hear from Gouverneur and said he, if you answer James' letter soon tell him he may expect to see me in Gouverneur in July or Aug. and furthermore give him my best respects.

The rail road is another great curiosity, as you know how rail roads are built, I will not attempt to tell you anything about them further than I have had a fine ride of 10 miles on the road that runs from here to Worcester. I think I never before went through the air as fast as I wanted but to go at the rate of 35 miles an hour is fast as I care about. Enough I had to hold my hat and hair on we went so fast riding after steam power on a rail road is some like sliding down hill only you don't have to drag the sled back and besides you can ride up hill as well as down and just as fast.

Boston Common is as pleasant a place as I ever saw. I think there is about 30 acres in it and a small frog pond in the middle which with the trees that are planted on the walks add greatly to the beauty of the place. It is resorted to early in the morning by Gentlemen and ladies to take the morning air and walk. The State House stands on the west side of the common on an elevated spot of ground and from the cupelo which is very high you have a fine view of the Harbor, Charlestown, Cambridge, Roxbury, Chelsea, and all Boston.

I should be glad to write you better news about myself as to a situation but the times being so hard here this spring business is very dull indeed and thus renders it almost impossible to obtain a place. I am in a very good house now, a short time until I can get a place. Should like to stay where I am as it is one of the best houses in Boston, they do two thousand and upwards a day these days & the reason of my getting in here was they had more writing than their one Bookkeeper could do and they have kept me to writing all the time. I have been here but when business gets over they won't have more than one can do at writing and they won't want me unless one of their clerks leaves, in that case I shall stay. I am to know in a few days.

You can afford to look over all bad spelling and bad composition in this letter it is so long. Give my love to all that enquire after me. You need not expect to see me in Gouverneur in a good while if I stay in Boston

To James M. Smith, ESq.

Yours truly,

H L. Keyes

Colonel Crockett arrived in town Sabbath day and makes or is the cause of considerable excitement, I have (not) seen the Gentleman as yet but mean to before he leaves town.

Scans of Letter