Archive for the ‘Maps’ 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

“A . . . historical atlas refashioned for the 21st century”

After having posted the diary entries of Elizabeth House Trist on December 23 and 26 when she was traveling from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh, on December 26 I came upon the article “Trove of Information From the 1930s, Animated by the Internet” in the The New York Times. It reported on the completion of a project by the University of Richmond’s Digital Scholarship Lab to digitize one of the greatest historical atlases: Charles O. Paullin and John K. Wright’s Atlas of the Historical Geography of the United States, first published in 1932. The twenty topics in the atlas include, for example: Boundaries 1607-1927, Indians 1507-1930, and Political Parties and Opinions 1788-1930. The digital edition reproduces all of the atlas’s nearly 700 plates but, in addition, many have been “georectified,” that is warped so that they can be placed on top of a digital map of the United States and moved from year to year to show changes during the time span under consideration. You can toggle back and forth between the two versions, plate and georectified; clickable sidebars provide underlying data and information about sources.

Naturally, the topics that appealed to me most were those that included information about the country during the Revolution and early nationhood: Public Post Roads and Stage Routes 1774, Plans of Cities 1775-1803, and Iron and Steel Works 1725-1775, to name a few.

To get back to Elizabeth House Trist, I was particularly interested in Rates of Travel from New York City in 1800 under the heading Industries and Transportation, 1620-1931. The atlas plate is on the left. Although she departed from Philadelphia in the year 1783, I thought this map would provide fairly accurate information for Trist’s trip.

In the digital image you can hover over a location for the time and distance to New York City. According to the map, the trip to Pittsburgh (276 miles) would have taken one week traveling at a speed of 1.6 mph. Of course this was unrealistic for Trist’s journey given the time of year and circumstances (see posts). She left Philadelphia on December 23 and arrived in Pittsburgh on January 9; her trip took two weeks and three days.

Elizabeth House Trist was traveling to join her husband in New Orleans. Her diary breaks off on July 1, 1784, just above Natchez, when she heard the news that her husband had died while she was wintering over in Pittsburgh. According to the digital map, the trip from New York City to New Orleans (1167 miles) would have taken four weeks in 1800, traveling at a speed of 1.8 mph. That estimate, of course, did not take into account low water on the Ohio and Mississippi, Indian unrest, what Trist called “a Passionate sort of climate,” and a host of other complications.

Do spend some time examining the maps in the amazing Richmond project.

Excerpts from Elizabeth House Trist’s diary can be read on pages 277-285 of In the Words of Women.

posted December 30th, 2013 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Maps,Travel

Stony Point, New York

My colleagues and I gave an illustrated reading of selections from our book In the Words of Women at Stony Point Battlefield, a New York State Historic Site, on September 22. Stony Point was an American fort at a crucial location on the Hudson River adjacent to Haverstraw Bay, opposite Verplanck’s Point, and downriver from West Point. It was taken by the British during the Revolution, but in a midnight assault on July 16, 1779 the Continental Light Infantry, under the command of Mad Anthony Wayne, seized the hilltop garrison. The Americans waded through 3-foot deep water on the Haverstraw Bay side and made their way up a steep embankment with orders to use only bayonets so as not to raise the alarm. The British were surprised and, recognizing defeat was inevitable, surrendered.

Our friend Julia Warger, the site manager, has made Stony Point a popular destination. She arranged for a medicine chest to be on display as well as other artifacts related to the passages we were reading. The audience was enthralled and there were many questions. After refreshments there was a demonstration of the firepower of the site’s six-pound cannon. Did you ever wonder about the derivation of the term “ramrod?”

The site also boasts the Hudson’s oldest lighthouse, which was built in 1826 and operated for nearly 100 years. I was given a tour by site interpreter, Mike, in costume. The photo was taken next to the lighthouse, atop the site, from which the view is spectacular. Mike pointed out where the British ship Vulture had picked up traitor Benedict Arnold when he fled from West Point. I think Mike looks like Russell Crowe.

posted September 27th, 2012 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Battles,Maps,New York

cole Hill

During the Revolution, Elizabeth House Trist helped her mother run a boarding house in Philadelphia, where she met and was befriended by Thomas Jefferson who was a regular guest. When the War was over she summoned up “resolution enough to undertake the Journey” to Louisiana where her husband, a former British officer, had purchased some land.

Leaving her son behind, she set out in December of 1783, for Pittsburgh where she hoped to winter over with friends. To us this hardly sounds like an expeditious route. But in her day, there was no easy way across the mountains in the south; nor was it easy to secure passage by boat to New Orleans, which was in Spanish hands at that time. The standard route for travelers was across southern Pennsylvania, on to Pittsburgh, then down the Ohio River to the Mississippi by boat, continuing on by water to the intended destination.

Trist included in her diary details she knew would be of great interest to Jefferson, in this instance, concerning Fort Pitt.

Fort Pitt is situated upon a point of land form’d by the junction of … two rivers [the Monongahela and the Allegheny] with the Ohio. … On the Monongahala, where the town is chiefly built, there are about a Hundred buildings; all … in a very ruinous state. … The land is exceeding rich and abounds with an abundance of maple trees, from which they make quantitys of sugar. … The low land, lying between the river and the high lands or hills, is call’d bottoms, and nothing can exceed the quallity of those grounds. In the month of May they look like a garden, such a number of beautifull flowers and shrubs. There are several wild vegetables that I wou’d give the preference to those that are cultivated: Wild Asparagus, Indian hemp, shepherd sprouts, lambs quarters, &cc—besides great abundance of Ginsang, Gentian and many other aromatick.

On the other side of the Monongahala, the land is amaizing lofty. Tis supposed that the whole body of it is cole [coal] and goes by the name of the cole Hill. At one side it has been open’d to supply the inhabitants with fuel. … The Hill is seven Hundred feet perpendicular, and on the top is a settlement. The land is fertile and capable of raising all kinds of grain. … In the spring of the year, the rivers abound with very fine fish, some of them exceeding good—particularly the Pike, which greatly exceed those that are caught below the Mountains in flavor and size, some of them weighing thirty pounds. The cat fish are enormous; some of them are obliged to be carried by 2 Men. The perch are commonly about the size of Sheep heads, but they have been caught that weigh’d 20 pound. There are several other kind—such as herring, &c—but different from ours. The bass look more like our Sea perch, only much larger, and I give them the preference to all the rest for their delicacy of flavor.

This excerpt is from In the Words of Women, Chapter 9, page 279. An enlarged version of the map can be found HERE. The Florida Center for Instructional Technology is responsible for this excellent site for maps.

posted July 30th, 2012 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Maps,Travel

“… what the Canker worm dont eat the Locusts destroy.”

Catharine “Kitty” Livingston was the daughter of William Livingston, the governor of New Jersey, and sister to Sarah Livingston who married John Jay. The Jays’ son Peter Augustus was in her care at Liberty Hall, the Livingston home in Elizabethtown, when she wrote to his parents in November 1777, reporting that he had been successfully inoculated against smallpox. Peter was 22 months old at the time.

My Dear Sister & Brother
It is with very great pleasure I announce to you, the recovery of your little Boy from the Small Pox; please to accept of the Congratulations of the Family on the happy event. No person ever was more favor’d in that disorder, he had only one pustule, & scarce a days illness. The Dr. bid me tell you that he had behaved manfully thro the whole. … If Sally you have at any time felt a regret at having left him least he should be spoil’d, be assured there never was a better Child. I have my doubts if ever any equaled him in goodness, I have but one Complaint to lodge against him, & that is, that we cannot make him talk; it is something extraordinary in our Family; but I flatter myself he will prattle every thing before he leaves us. …

Kitty’s letter goes on to comment on the billeting of soldiers in her father’s house. Located in a hotly contested area, Liberty Hall had been occupied by American troops or Hessians depending on battle lines. Here Kitty complains about the former. The bullock guards she refers to were soldiers in charge of cattle intended to feed the army.

Yesterday I returned from Elizath. Gen. [Philemon] Dickenson is at that Post with between eight hundred & a Thousand Troops. My Fathers House for six weeks was made a Guard House, for a Bullock Guard the first instance I beleive of a Governors House being so degraded. I do not exaggerate In telling you the Guards have done ten times the mischief to the House that the Hessians did; they have left only two locks in the House taken off many pains of glass, left about a third of the paper hanging, burnt up some mahogany banisters, a Quantity of timber, strip’d the roof of all the lead, one of the men was heard to boast that he had at one heat taken 30 pd. of Lead off. The furniture that mamma left there when Sally & myself was last down is stolen except a few things of which there is only some fragments. It is as in the time of Pharoah what the Canker worm dont eat the Locusts destroy*. …
your truly Affectionate Sister

*This is a biblical reference (Joel 1:4) to a devouring army that leaves behind desolation and waste.

This excerpt is from Selected Letters of John Jay and Sarah Livingston, compiled and edited by Landa M. Freeman, Louise V. North, and Janet M. Wedge (Jefferson, North Carolina: MacFarland & Company, 2005), page 52. The illustration is from As We Were: The Story of Old Elizabethtown by Theodore Thayer (Elizabeth, New Jersey: Grassman Publishing Company for The New Jersey Historical Society, 1964). A large version of the map can be found HERE, courtesy of the Florida Center for Instructional Technology.

posted May 3rd, 2012 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Children,Hessians,Inoculation,Looting,Maps,Patriots

next page

   Copyright © 2018 In the Words of Women.