Archive for the ‘Dewees, Mary Coburn’ Category

“full expectations of seeing better days”


Returning to the United States, here is another woman’s account of a search for a new home.

MARY COBURN DEWEES kept a journal of her journey from Philadelphia to Kentucky to share with family and friends. Accompanied by her brother Judge Coburn, Mary, her husband Samuel, and their children Rachel, about 5 years old, and Sallie, about 3, started off in the late afternoon of September 27, 1788. They traveled on foot, by wagon, and, from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, by boat. On the trip down the Ohio River, they, like Susan Livingston Symmes, also stopped at Limestone [Maysville, Kentucky] and had a similar reaction to the town.

November 26th [1788]. At 4 o’clock A.M. woke up by a hard gale of wind, which continued until breakfast time, when we had both wind and tide in our favour. At ½ past 9 we came to the Three Islands 12 miles from Limestone; at ½ past one hove in sight of Limestone; at 3 o’clock landed safe at that place, where we found six boats. The place very indifferent, the landing the best on the river; there are at this time about 100 people on the bank looking at us and enquiring for their friends. We have been nine days coming from McKee’s Island, three miles below Pittsburgh.

November 27th. As soon as it was light my brother set off for Lexington without company, which is far from safe, so great was his anxiety to see his family.

November 28th. Left Limestone at 9 o’clock there being thirty odd boats at the Landing, the chief of which arrived since yesterday 3 o’clock. We got to a little town call’d Washington . . .

November 29th. We left Washington before light, and got to Mary’s Lick at 12 o’clock; left there and reached the North Fork where we encamped, being 15 or 20 in Company. We made our bed at the fire, the night being very cold, and the howling of the wolves, together with its being the most dangerous part of the road, kept us from enjoying much repose that night.

. . . . on the first of December arrived at Lexington . . . We were politely received and welcomed by Mrs. Coburn. We all stay’d at my brother’s . . .

Jany.1 1789. We Still continue at my Brothers and . . . mean to go down to south elk horn as soon as the place is ready-Since I have been here I have been visited by the genteele people in the place and receivd several Invitations both in town & Country, the Society in this place is very Agreeable and I flatter myself I shall see many happy days in this Country. Lexington is a Clever little Town with a court house and Jail and some pretty good buildings in it, Chiefly Log my abode I have not seen yet a discription of which you shall have by and by.

29th. I have this day reached South Elk horn, and am much pleased with it. ’Tis a snug little Cabbin about 9 Mile from Lexington on a pretty Asscent surrounded by Sugar trees, a Beatifull pond a little distance from the door, with an excellent Spring not far from the Door. I can assure you I have enjoyed more happiness the few days I have been here than I have experienced these four or five years past. I have my little family together And am in full expectation of seeing better days. Yours &c MD

See another post about Dewees HERE. Life for the Dewees family apparently was “better” in Kentucky. Although Mary Coburn Dewees mentioned that she was ‘very sick’ at the beginning of her Journal, the subject does not occur again for the rest of the journey. It turns out that she was pregnant, and gave birth to Eliza on April 3, 1789. Two more children were born after that; all five reached adulthood. Samuel died c.1808 and Mary Dewees on June 30, 1809.

Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library; see also In the Words of Women, pp. 283-86. Map from Zadok Cramer, The Navigator, 8th Edition, first printed 1801.

posted June 28th, 2018 by Louise, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Dewees, Mary Coburn,Maps,Travel

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