Archive for the ‘Ohio’ Category

“Our company heartily tired & sick of the boat”

In the previous post SUSAN LIVINGSTON described settling in Ohio after her marriage to John Cleves Symmes. Where did she live while the new house to her design was being built? There are no records of what she found when she arrived in North Bend. Clues may be gleaned perhaps in a novel Susan Anne L. Ridley wrote years later. On the first page of The Young Emigrants, a footnote states: “It may not be superfluous to say, that much of the matter of the Following Tale, has been supplied by personal observation.” The story features a young girl who, in early November 1794, travels with her aunt and uncle from New York City to their new home on the Ohio. The description must be close to what Susan Livingston Symmes first encountered:

It was a cabin of about sixteen feet square, formed of unhewn timber, filled in with ‘chinking’ of clay, some of which had fallen out, and admitted both light and cold. The creaking door, hung on wooden hinges, was fastened with a wooden latch, and opened in the same inartificial manner as that of Red Riding-hood’s grandmother. So rude in all respects was the workmanship of the room, that it might be questioned if a single nail had been expended on it. The floor was formed of unplaned boards, that had been employed in the construction of arks, which, after conveying the emigrants, had been converted into their habitations. . . . Mrs. Stanley look around despairingly, . . . at seeing what she was given to understand was the best room in the house . . .

Mrs. Symmes had a difficult time adjusting to her new abode but she became close with members of her husband’s family. Nonetheless, she missed her own friends and relatives. In late April 1798, she decided to make her first trip back east to visit her family but also to reunite her niece, Susan Anne Ridley with her mother. Moreover, the young girl’s further education needed to be considered, and Aunt Susan probably felt that the wilds of Ohio were no longer suitable.

The 24th. April 1798-at 3oClock P.M.I embarked at Cincinnati in Mr. Goudy’s keel boat to ascend the Ohio to Pittsburgh on my way to the City of New York—the Passengers Mrs. Gillman, Mrs. Zeigler & Miss Greene & Mr. Simmons bound for Marietta, Mrs. Chambers for Chambersburg, her son in Law mr. Israel Ludlow accompanies us. My Niece Susan Anne L. Ridley who came out to the Miamis with me, I now take back to her Mother to be educated in N.Y.—we reached no farther than Columbia the 24th a settlement 6 miles above Cin[cinnati]: half a mile below the mouth of the little Miami—this first night Susan Ann & myself lodged at Major Stites’s, the rest of the Party at Kibby’s Inn. . . .

25th. April wednesday morning at 11 oClock left Columbia; gained only 6 miles the river being very high, encamped on the Kentucky side, a heavy shower came on at the time we had supped & pitched our tent which did not cast off the rain so we were considerably soaked, it continued raining all night—our Health did not suffer in consequence of it.

26th. thursday A high contrary wind this day obliged us to lie still, until the afternoon, when we advanced only 7 miles, & encamped in the woods again that night.

27th. friday—Reached Mr. Walters Cabbin, tolerably accommodated.

28th Saturday—Nothing remarkable; at night encamped in the Forest.

29th Sunday—Reached Limestone [later Maysville] in the evening 65 miles from Cin: supped & lodged at Mr. Martins Inn—a disagreeable Town, tho one of the most considerable Landings in Kentucky. Our Company heartily tired & sick of the boat [it] being amazingly crowded, very dirty, & no convenient place for preserving our provisions—the river being full, the boat keeps us near as possible to the shore, so that [we] are greatly incommoded by the limbs of trees that . . . tear down the awning, break the [posts] that support it, often endanger our heads . . . ; the boat heavy laden, weakly manned, the men making too free with Whiskey; all these circumstances combine to retard our progress, & promise a tedious passage.

30th Monday morning left Limestone, could not make our Stage at a Cabbin, had our usual resource the woods—a little above Massy’s Station, & the 3 Islands, which present a beautiful & picturesque view, Massy’s Station occupies a beautiful bottom on the Indian side, at the point of the lowest of the 3 islands – we had an agreeable walk on the bank opposite this settlement—we find our daily rambles in the woods very refreshing, & a prodigious releif [sic] from the boat, we walked . . . faster than the boat moved. . . .

Susan Anne Ridley (1788-1867) married Theodore Sedgwick, Jr. (1780-1839), and became a well-known novelist of children’s literature, e.g., The Young Emigrants (1830).

In her later years, Susan Livingston Symmes lived with the Sedgwicks in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Her tombstone states first that she was the daughter of William Livingston, and second, the ‘relict’ (widow) of John C. Symmes.

From “Some notes of Mrs. Symmes passage up the Ohio 1798”, fragmentary pages in the William Livingston Papers, at the Massachusetts Historical Society. The illustration is from The Young Emigrants.

posted June 12th, 2018 by Louise, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Ohio,Sedgwick, Susan Anne Ridley,Symmes, John Cleves,Symmes, Susan Livingston

“a Paradise something like it might be made”

There are many reasons to move from one place to another: adventure; new job opportunities; fleeing a hostile environment; joining relatives to make a fresh start; marriage. These certainly accounted for many who made the trek westward after Congress passed a series of ordinances to survey, divide, and offer at public auction any lands ceded to the Confederation.

It was a proposal of marriage that determined SUSAN LIVINGSTON’s move from the East Coast to a spot on the Miami River in Ohio. The eldest daughter of thirteen children born to Susannah French and William Livingston, the first elected governor of New Jersey, Susan (“Sukey”) was well-educated by her parents, witty, courageous, and politically astute. She had sometimes assisted her father as his secretary; had undertaken the education of her young nephew Peter Augustus Jay while his parents, John and Sarah Jay, were in Europe during the Revolutionary War; had taken care of her parents at the end of their lives (1790); and after, had moved in with her widowed sister Kitty Ridley (Catharine Livingston) and her family in Baltimore.

It must have been quite a surprise to her relatives when she suddenly married John Cleves Symmes in September 1794. Accompanied by her 6-year old niece Susan Anne Ridley, Susan Livingston Symmes and her husband John set out for Ohio. How Susan coped with the move is hinted at in a letter to her sister Sarah Jay and her niece Maria Jay, a year and a half later.

March 3d 1796 N.BendMy dear Sister
I had the pleasure of a letter from you last Novr. it ought to have been attended to long before this, but having nothing material to write, I delayed from time to time until I feel very much ashamed of myself. We have no news here. We lie snug beyond the tempests of Politicks & the gay Circle of pleasure. Each one is engaged in cultivating his Plantation. At present the whole Country is busy in making Sugar from the maple Tree . . . we have too much business on hands to make any ourselves. . . .

Our house would probably have been nearly finished could we have pleased ourselves with a Site, we have a beautiful one on the Ohio, but too many conveniences must have been sacrificed to perspectives. The Miami is a contemptible stream compared with the Ohio, yet we have concluded to build on it 3 quarters of a mile from the Ohio, the Village occupies this space; we have the Miami river in front on a western view, to the North we have a mile of beautiful level bottom land, along the east bank of the Miami about 200 Acres; this bottom is skirted along the east by a range of hills covered with timber, & from which 3 rivulets descend & cross the bottom; between the house & the Miami are about 10 acres perfectly level, on the left or rather South of which is a wood divided by a never failing small stream of water which passes by the east end of our house, at the distance of 40 feet with the addition of a very fine Spring, about 10 feet beyond the brook, or 50 feet from the house, this brook as it divides the wood on its way leaves about 3 acres of the grove a perfect level, next to the intended Garden & Courtyard; this small wood, & the brook terminating in the Miami. You will from this description think it a Paradise something like it I assure you might be made. I only wish we were on the spot which I do not expect to be until late in the autumn. . . .

. . . . I have a good house building 4 rooms below & 4 abo[ve] with a kitchen adjoined to it by a Linto 30 feet long, stone Cellars under the whole, the house is 44 by 40 feet, the Passage only half way thro the house so that the 44 feet is divided into 2 rooms, it’s a plan of my own I do not know how it will answer; I have suffered much from the want of a good house in this Country, it was a great transition from your Papa’s house [the Jays’ house in New York City] to Cabbins. . . .

John C. Symmes (1742-1814) was a justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court, and had been a member of that state’s constitutional convention as well as a member of the Continental Congress. In 1788, Symmes had been named a judge in the Northwest Territory, settling in North Bend, Ohio. That year, he and some friends created a company and purchased over 311,000 acres from Congress. President Washington signed the patent on October 30, 1794 conveying the land, known as Symmes Purchase, for $225,000. There was much controversy over this purchase at the time as well as afterwards.

Susan and John Symmes had serious financial disagreements about her right to control her money even before their marriage. No doubt his financial difficulties and speculating irregularities played a large role in her decision to leave him for good in 1807. The house burned in 1810.

For more on Susan Livingston Symmes see posts HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE.

This letter is at the Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University.

posted June 7th, 2018 by Louise, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Jay, Sarah Livingston,Livingston, Catharine "Kitty",Ohio,Sedgwick, Susan Anne Ridley,Symmes, John Cleves,Symmes, Susan Livingston

“to relieve a sisters anxiety”

SUSAN LIVINGSTON SYMMES had written a letter to her husband-to-be in 1794 before their marriage referring to the state of her finances and her intention to repay her sister Kitty for money she had borrowed.

Feby 10– Baltimore [17]94Permit me my friend once more to intrude upon your patience & waste so much of your time as to endeavor to clear myself of the heavy charges brought against me in your letter of the 4th february.

I never manifested any distrust of your circumstances, in the first letter you wrote me, you said your fortune was sufficient & I had the fullest confidence in your word.—what I proposed respecting mine was merely to relieve a sisters anxiety whose income was insufficient without the addition of mine, and judging it could be no object with you: how this can be construed into self love I cannot see. I think it would have been an act of great generosity in both of us. I am sorry you are obliged to recur to ages back to find love matches. I see them daily among my acquaintances, altho in many cases previous settlements & stipulations take place, either at the request of parents, friends or the desire of the gentleman. doubtless many connections are founded in interest—for my own part I never would give my hand where I was not attached upon any consideration. I think an Union founded on esteem promises the most happiness, as that will remain when passion declines: I am sorry you have so mistaken my Ideas upon the subject, and still more, that having been flattered with your good opinion, I should be so unfortunate as to forfeit it. as to the plan of living at Morris about a twelve month & then to be fetched to the Miamis, and after a few years residence there (to arrange your affairs) to return to Jersey, it was precisely your own plan the morning of your departure do you not recollect that you said you would write to Mr [Peyton] Short [Cleves son-in-law] to come to Morris & you would protract your stay as long as possible—and when in your last but one you talked of gardening, I presumed you meant at Morris—I have only one proposal more to make, which is that you do just as you wish in the matter. Your will shall be mine. I know not what more I can say. If you choose to go alone to the miamis—my best wishes shall accompany you. Indeed my friend your letter has wounded my feelings more than ever I expected they would have been by you. Since mine has offended you forget the contents, and be assured I erred with the best intentions in consequence of a promise made Mrs R. before I thought of changing my situation; However that may be, in this I am clear that I am with esteem & affection your friend

John Cleves Symmes tried to use Susan’s letter to assert his claim that she had given him control of her finances and did not have the authority to repay her sister. He failed. In 1808, after living several years in Ohio, Susan Livingston Symmes left her husband and returned to the East. Although she did not divorce him she lived apart from him in New York until his death in 1814. Susan died in 1840 and is buried in Stockbridge, New York, in what is known as the Sedgwick Pie. It gets its name from its shape and layout. The family patriarch, Theodore Sedgwick, and his wife lie in the center; family members, relatives, servants, pets, etc. are arranged in concentric circles around him.

American Women Writers to 1800, Sharon M. Harris – editor, (New York: Oxford University Press,1996), 92-94.

posted December 1st, 2016 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Marriage,Ohio,Sedgwick Pie,Symmes, Susan Livingston

“The transition was great indeed!”

John Cleves Symmes’ land in Ohio called the Symmes Purchase was poorly surveyed and badly managed; portions were sold to settlers before Symmes and his associates had finalized the contract for them. Meanwhile Symmes went about building a home in North Bend, Ohio, during which time Susan Livingston Symmes and Symmes’ daughter Anna went to stay with her older sister Maria Short in Lexington, Kentucky. There Anna Tuthill Symmes met William Henry Harrison and fell in love. The couple married in 1795. Harrison went on to become President of the United States.

SUSAN LIVINGSTON SYMMES became disappointed in her marriage rather quickly. Her husband did not consult her on their place of residence nor did he honor his promise to allow her to visit Morristown frequently. He also sought control of the money she brought to the marriage and decided that she could not “receive the interest or transfer the Stock” at her own discretion; she had wanted to use her money to repay her sister Kitty Livingston Ridley for debts incurred before her marriage. Susan contacted an attorney for assistance but it turned out that the lawyer was a friend of her husband’s who violated client confidentiality by passing along information to her spouse. Here is the letter she wrote to Judge Robert Morris at New Brunswick.

North Bend March 4, 1796Sir
I feel myself greatly embarrassed, & distressed at addressing a Gentleman so much a Stranger to me, & upon so delicate a subject, & nothing but my confidence in the benevolence of your disposition; & the apparent necessity for vindicating my own & Sisters character should have induced me to trouble you upon this occasion—Happening to cast my eye this morning over a paper that the Judges’s [Symmes] nephew was reading, & observing my own name, it excited a curiosity to join in the perusal, when to my surprise I found it to be a letter from the Judge in answer to one of yours respecting Mrs. R. [Ridley’s] business; in which I find he labours under several mistakes—It will doubtless appear singular to you, that I should not rather endeavour to convince him than you—& I think myself obliged to assign the reasons, one is, that the Judge has not been pleased to communicate your letter or his answer; tho’ the most important is, least the ungrateful subject should bring altercation, & interrupt that harmony which I wish ever to maintain–

He asserts that I transferred the 2400 dol. [to Mrs. Ridley] at Phil[adelphia], when on my way thro’ to N.Y. with him, (which was some time in June or July)—The fact is they were transferred the preceeding Spring at Baltimore, the certificates being on the books at Annapolis, could not I believe have been transfered at Phil—This transaction I acquainted Mr. S. with, no person being privy to it, tho I had no objection to its being public, & at the same time shewed him my accounts which was within a very few days after our marriage—& told him that the certificates (on the books of Pennsylvania) which I then shewed him, were Mrs. R[‘s], that I must make them over to her before I left the Country. His displeasure was great, he insisting upon it that it was all a gift of mine [from Kitty]—There was no more occasion to inform Mr. S. before our union that I pd. Mrs. R. than that I had pd. my other Sisters & Brothers. . . .

Mr. S. saw the account with the list of the other property I had & yet says I gave Mrs. R. three forths of my property—It was my intention to settle with her whenever stock rose that I could sell to advantage, & either divide the profits (if any accrued) with her or pay her the sums I had received on her account with interest from the time of receiving them. The Spring I made over the 2400 dollars, certificates were selling at 16s & Mrs. R. took them at par, so that she should complain if any one—I never made a mystery of any thing, I always told the Judge that my fortune was inconsiderable, but that Mrs. R. & myself by living together could be comfortable & independent—when conversing about property so shortly after our marriage he told me he had been informed I had six thousand pounds, & was greatly disappointed to find that I had not the half—that was no fault of mine—Certain it is that I have never spent a shilling either of his money or what was mine, but I have been a prudent, industrious, obedient wife, accommodating myself entirely to his manners & way of life, which are very different from what I have been accustomed to before our marriage—The transition was great indeed! & unspeakable is my mortification to find Mrs. R[‘s]. opinion of the Judge better founded than mine—Mrs. R. is a woman of the strictest veracity; & most rigid honor, & would not lay claim to property which was not her right. . . .

What I have said on this subject to you Sir, I have never hinted to any one of my own family—Your own delicacy will suggest to you the propriety of keeping the contents of this letter a most sacred secret—
I am Sir
With the greatest Respect
Yours—
Susan Symmes

It seems strange that Susan had not settled the matter of her money with her husband before their marriage or arranged for a prenuptial agreement; without one, according to the practice of the time, all property—real estate, stocks, money—belonging to the wife would be controlled by the husband. It is interesting that Kitty Livingston did not have a high opinion of Symmes.
Next time, the letter Susan had written earlier to John Cleves Symmes on this subject.

American Women Writers to 1800. Contributors: Sharon M. Harris – editor, (New York: Oxford University Press,1996), 92-94.

posted November 28th, 2016 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Livingston, Catharine "Kitty",Marriage,Money,Ohio,Philadelphia,Symmes, Susan Livingston

“Mountains—They call them Nobs here”

SUSAN LIVINGSTON SYMMES wrote again to her sister Sarah Jay in New York City describing continuing difficulties in reaching Pittsburgh where the party was to lay over for the winter, proceeding to North Bend, Ohio in the spring.

Monday 24 Novr 1794Mr dr Sister
We are thus far on our way, have come over dreadful roads & for our comfort what remains is still worse—The House where we now are & expect to remain to-day as the Horses want shoeing & is filled with Officers, they behave to us with the greatest politeness, & are in excessive spirits to be on their return, they have endured amazing hardships this campaign owing to the inclemency of the weather, & the faults in the Quarter masters Department. Gen. Frelinghuysen is to take charge of this as far as he goes & then to deposit it in the Post-Office—He says this Country looks as if the Deity had thrown all the Rocks & Stones in the whole World here & employed all the Devils to raise them into Mountains—They call them Nobs here, but to be sure the Nobs are such mountains as you never have & I hope never will see—A Gentleman who lately travelled to Pitts. said he had heard that it was hill & dale all the way, but he thought it was hill &hill & no dale. If nature had made a Gap for roads as well as for Rivers it would have been an accomodating circumstance—5 or 6 miles in advance of this we expect to strike into a different road from that which the Army is travelling, it would never do for us to encounter 500 waggons & 17000 troops, it is an important object to avoid the Army—At Morris [town, New Jersey] we took a ride of only 4 miles & broke the Axle tree of our Carriage & in all this length of way & bad-ness of roads no accident has as yet befallen us. I shall be extremely glad to write you the same from Pittsburgh—Mr. Symmes drives with great judgment, & where he thinks it most dangerous we get out of the Carriage—
I am anxious to hear from you, the accounts from mr. Jay must now be very interesting, I mean to the Public, they are always so to his friends.
God bless you all—
Our dr Susey is in perfect health, I am infinitely more uneasy on her account than my own, if it was not for her, I should travel on horseback, I can’t trust her in the Carnage without myself—This is the 4th scrawl I have forwarded to you since our journey commenced—
Nancy begs to be remembred, she is a very amiable girl, & a great comfort to me—My best love to Sister Ridley [Kitty Livingston Ridley] & our dr Nancy [Sarah’s Jay’s daughter Ann] & beleive me with the truest Affection yours—
Susan Symmes

We have a very strict Negro fellow in our retinue that shall carry Susey over the worst places—

The letter is part of the Jay Papers, Columbia Rare Books & Manuscripts Order no. 402136C.

posted November 10th, 2016 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Jay, John,Jay, Sarah Livingston,Livingston, Catharine "Kitty",Ohio,Pennsylvania,Symmes, Susan Livingston,Travel

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