Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

“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

“that retiring grace, which awes whilst it enchants”

ABIGAIL ADAMS finishes her long letter to her sister Mary Cranch in which she described their experiences and the impressions she had of the places they stopped at and the people they met. The map of Devon shows these towns they visited: Axbridge, Exeter, Plymouth, and Kingsbridge. I have included Abigail’s description of members of the Cranch family because of the comments she makes about their place in British society and because she compares the class system in England to social status in the United States. Note Abigail’s comments on women: she was very critical of the behavior of upper class women in England and thought it appropriate that women affect a “retiring grace.”

Our next movement was to Kingsbridge. . . . the chief resort of the Cranch family. We arrived at the inn about six o’clock on Saturday evening. About eight, we were saluted with a ringing of bells, a circumstance we little expected. Very soon we were visited by the various branches of the Cranch family, both male and female, amounting to fifteen persons ; but, as they made a strange jumble in my head, I persuaded my fellow traveller to make me out a genealogical table, which I send you. Mr. and Mrs. Burnell, and Mr. and Mrs. Trathan, both offered us beds and accommodations at their houses; but we were too numerous to accept their kind invitations, though we engaged ourselves to dine with Mr. Burnell, and to drink tea with Mr. Trathan, the next dav. Mrs. Burnell has a strong resemblance to Mrs. Palmer. She is a genteel woman, and easy and polite. We dined at a very pretty dinner, and after meeting drank tea at the other house, Mr. Trathan’s. Their houses are very small, but every thing neat and comfortable. Mr. Burnell is a shoemaker, worth five thousand pounds; and Mr. Trathan a grocer, in good circumstances. The rest of the families joined us at the two houses. They are all serious, industrious, good people, amongst whom the greatest family harmony appears to subsist.

The people of this county appear more like our New England people than any I have met with in this country before; but the distinction between tradesmen and gentry, as they are termed, is widely different from that distinction in our country. With us, in point of education and manners, the learned professions, and many merchants, farmers and tradesmen, are upon an equality with the gentry of this country. It would be degrading to compare them with many of the nobility here.

As to the ladies of this country, their manners appear to be totally depraved. It is in the middle ranks of society, that virtue and morality are yet to be found. Nothing does more injury to the female character than frequenting public places; and the rage which prevails now for the watering-places, and the increased number of them, are become a national evil, as they promote and encourage dissipation, mix all characters promiscuously, and are the resort of the most unprincipled female characters, who are not ashamed to show their faces wherever men dare to go. Modesty and diffidence are called ill-breeding and ignorance of the world; an impudent stare is substituted in lieu of that modest deportment, and that retiring grace, which awes whilst it enchants. I have never seen a female model here of such unaffected, modest, and sweetly amiable manners as Mrs. Guild, Mrs. Russell, and many other American females exhibit.
Having filled eight pages, I think it is near time to hasten to a close. Cushing and Folger are both arrived; by each I have received letters from you. A new sheet of paper must contain a reply to them. This little space shall assure you of what is not confined to time or place, the ardent affection of your sister,
A. A.

Abigail’s letter is from the volume Letters of Mrs. Adams, The Wife of John Adams With an Introductory Memoir by Her Grandson, Charles Francis Adams, Volume II, 1840.

posted August 15th, 2016 by Janet, comments (2), CATEGORIES: Adams, Abigail,Americans Abroad,Britain,Cranch, Mary,Travel

“a tour of about six hundred miles”

When John and ABIGAIL ADAMS were in London—John being the American minister to England from 1785 to 1788—they lived at 9 Grosvenor Square. As an expat in London I visited the site which is on the northeast corner at the intersection of Duke Street and Brook Street. A plaque, placed by the Colonial Dames of America in 1933, includes the information that the Adams’s daughter Abigail (Nabby) was married there to William Stevens Smith.
In 1787 Abigail and John decided to see some of England outside London before they departed. They set out on a journey to the West Country; Abigail recounted some of her observations and experiences in a letter to her sister Mary Cranch.

Grosvenor Square [London], 15 September, 1787My Dear Sister,
When I wrote you last, I was just going to set out on a journey to the West of England. I promised you to visit Mr. Cranch’s friends and relatives. This we did, as I shall relate to you. We were absent a month, and made a tour of about six hundred miles. The first place we made any stay at was Winchester. There was formerly an Earl of Winchester, by the name of Saer de Quincy. He was created Earl of Winchester by King John, in 1224, and signed Magna Charta, which I have seen; the original being now in the British Museum, with his handwriting to it.

After conveying some information to her sister about the Cranch ancestry Abigail expressed curiosity about her family, the Quincys.

I have a perfect remembrance of a parchment in our grandmother’s possession, which, when quite a child, I used to amuse myself with. This was a genealogical table, which gave the descent of the family from the time of William the Conqueror. This parchment Mr. Edmund Quincy borrowed, on some occasion, and I have often heard our grandmother say, with some anger, that she could never recover it. As the old gentleman is still living, I wish Mr. Cranch would question him about it, and know what hands it went into, and whether there is any probability of its ever being recovered; and be so good as to ask uncle Quincy how our grandfather came by it, and from whence our great-grandfather came, where he first settled, and take down in writing all you can learn from him and Mr. Edmund Quincy respecting the family. You will smile at my zeal, perhaps, on this occasion; but can it be wondered at that I should wish to trace an ancestor amongst the signers of Magna Charta? Amongst those who voted against receiving an explanatory charter in the Massachusetts, stands the name of our venerable grandfather, accompanied with only one other; this the journals of the House will show, to his immortal honor. I do not expect either titles or estate from the recovery of the genealogical table, were there any probability of obtaining it. Yet, if I was in possession of it, money should not purchase it from me.

But to return to Winchester. It is a very ancient place, and was formerly the residence of the Saxon and Norman kings. There still remains a very famous cathedral church, in the true Gothic architecture, being partly built in the year 1079. I attended divine service there, but was much more entertained with the venerable and majestic appearance of the ancient pile, than with the modern, flimsy discourse of the preacher. A meaner performance I do not recollect to have heard; but, in a church which would hold several thousands, it might truly be said, two or three were met together, and those appeared to be the lower order of the people.

More to follow.

Abigail’s letter is from the volume Letters of Mrs. Adams, The Wife of John Adams With an Introductory Memoir by Her Grandson, Charles Francis Adams, Volume II, 1840. The illustration of the Adams’s Grosvenor Square House is taken from this SITE. The engraving of Winchester Cathedral can be found HERE.

posted August 4th, 2016 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Adams, Abigail,Adams, John,Americans Abroad,Britain,Cranch, Mary,London,Smith, Abigail "Nabby" Adams,Smith, William Stevens,Travel

“at one spot we found a small Ladder”

Henrietta Liston continued to describe the visit she and her husband made to Niagara Falls in 1799.

I have said that the noise & the spray are the first objects which strike the Spectators, & prepare their Senses for the magnificent scenes afterwards presented to thier [sic] view. Great part of that noise proceeds from what are called the rapids, which extends for two miles above the Falls. The River of Niagara, one of the most beautiful we had seen, is more than three times broad at Fort Erie, & as it gradually contracts, the rapidity of its course redoubles from the greater declivity of the ground over which it rolls, a chain of white rocks raise themselves on each side of the bed of the River, & forms at last a Table of Rocks . . . almost a half circle, over which the immense Mass of water falls into the Gulf beneath.

As early in the Evening as we could tear ourselves away from an object, for which we had travelled so far & suffered so much, We reseated ourselves in our Cart, which had been left half a mile distant on the high road, & we reached the Fort of Chippaway, two miles up the River, where we found a very good Inn. . . .

We reached the Inn wet & dirty, & fatigued, but a good fire & tolerable Supper recruited & enabled us, after a comfortable sleep, to set out next morning immediately after breakfast. . . . The men determined to go down to the Bed of the River below the Cataract but for this purpose a Guide became necessary; with a view to find one we wandered to a Farm House sweetly situated about a half a mile from the Falls, & commanding a perfect view of Slucher Falls.

Here we found a respectable Farmer & some handsome Daughters, the youngest, almost ten years old, readily agreed to conduct us to the Bed of the River. She led us through Corn-fields, meadow ground, & thick woods to the brink of a precipice, a little alarming to look at, but I had taken my resolution, & with the assistance of Mr. L. & the young Gentlemen I was enabled to get down this Steep, holding by the Rocks & Branches, in constant apprehension of both giving way; at one spot we found a small Ladder, of ten or twelve steps firmly fixed. It was erected for the Wife of Gen. [John] Simcoe, when he was Governor of Upper Canada, & I beleive I was the second Gentle woman who descended it. An Indian ladder appeared to have been thrown down to make way for this, (the Indian Ladder consists of the Body of a small Tree in which are notches cut at equal distances, sufficient to place the heel & toe); one very critical step having alarmed me considerably, I was seized with a trembling in my legs which obliged me, on reaching the Bottom, to sit down on the Stones near an hour & my little Conductress, who ran up & down the Hill like a Kid,—gathered & brought me Sorril & wild Rasberries—called in England Virginian—which refreshed me a good deal. We saw several Boys standing, on the Rocks & fishing with very long lines, regardless of the sublime objects around them.

Being now on a level with the River, We looked up to these immense Cataracts, instead of looking down upon them as on the preceding Evening, From the Curve which the Horse Shoe Fall makes, it is from below that the complete Coup d’oeuil [sic] is taken. Near the Slucher Fall, coming out of the corner of the little Island, is a small Fall, at least what would merit that term in any other situation, but placed so near to objects of such magnitude it appeared a beautiful white Feather, & is called the Horses tail.

While I rested, the Gentlemen of the Party walked with much difficulty over the Stones along the side of the River, near half a mile, & got behind the Wall of Water formed by the curve of the Horse Shoe Fall. They could advance but a very little way from want of air. They were however enabled to gather from the Rock a thin transparent Spar formed by the Water, though in doing this the number of water Snakes incommoded them a little; these are, though disgusting to look at, the most innocent of their Tribe.

I cannot say that the superior beauty of the scene sufficiently repaid the trouble of descending to the Bed of the River, as the Table Rock certainly affords a very enchanting view. From our present situation, however, we discovered the very strange appearance of this Table Rock, which struck us as a thin peice [sic] of stone projecting between 40 & 50 feet from the large Mass over which the Cataracts fell, & hanging over this tremendous Gulf in danger every moment of falling into it, & I was a little agitated on recollecting that the Evening before, we had lain down on our breasts upon this Bed of danger in order to look at the Horse Shoe Fall with safety. . . .

Finding myself sufficiently recovered, & our curiosity gratified I attempted the ascent, which I performed with much more ease than I had gone down. We drank milk with the Father & Sisters of our little Girl, took a long & last view of the Slucher Fall, & rewarded our Guide not only for the dexterity with which she had performed her task, but for the good humoured vivacity with which she had amused us.

As Robert and Henrietta Liston prepared to leave for England in 1800, Mrs. Liston wrote that she expected “there might be many moments when I should recollect with melancholy pleasure the happy & cheerful hours I had past in the United States & the thousand kindnesses we had experienced from the Inhabitants of every State we had visited.”

Louise North, The Travel Journals of Henrietta Marchant Liston (Lexington Books: Lanham, Maryland, 2014), pages 87-91.

posted November 23rd, 2015 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Liston, Henrietta Marchant,Niagara Falls,Travel

“sensations of astonishment & of delight”

In 2014 Louise North, a co-editor of In the Words of Women, published a delightful little book called The Travel Journals of Henrietta Marchant Liston from which this blog has excerpted several passages. Having featured Ann Powell’s description of Niagara Falls in the previous post I thought it would be interesting to read what Mrs. Liston thought of that marvel of nature. Mrs. Liston had accompanied her husband Robert to the United States in 1796 when he was named British minister to the new nation. During her stay she kept a journal and wrote letters to her uncle in England describing the country and the people they met. In August 1799, the Listons visited Niagara Falls.

We were now within eight or nine miles of this fanfarred Wonder without hearing any noise from the Waters, though it is said, that when the Wind is in certain quarters the roaring of the Falls is heard at the distance of twenty or thirty miles; no sound reached us till within three miles.

The first part of this truly sublime & interesting object visible to us, was a thick vapour which rose beautifully up & seemed to mix with the Clouds. We quitted our Cart, & seeking our way—for we found no one to guide us—through the Woods & Fields, were led by the noise & the Spray to the first opening amongst the trees. The Sun was just near setting, & no Spectacle in the World could have so impressed us. Never, indeed, can I forget the sensations of astonishment & of delight, which I experienced at the first glance of this stupendous object, for it was a glance only, dimly perceived through the mist which envelloped it. The beauty of the rain bow, formed by the departing rays of the Sun, & extending from one fall to the other, blending its vivid colours with the sparkling of the water cannot be described. We stood enchanted, & could scarcely recover ourselves sufficiently to descend a steep Bank & travelling by an Indian Path, (that is a track for one at a time), through the Bushes, reached the Table Rock, a projecting point so called, from whence you have the first complete view of the Cataracts, & which is a part of that chain of rocks over which the Water precipitates itself.

The Cataract of Niagara is divided into two Falls by a beautiful little wooded island, the centre of which forms a line of division betwixt the British & the American Possessions. The whole breadth of the falls, including the Island, measures nearly a mile, the Island not occupying quite a fourth of this. The height does not exceed a hundred & forty or one hundred & fifty feet. These Cataracts assume very different characters, a part of that on the British side, forms a curve & is called the Horse Shoe; the Water appears like a Wall, & projects with so great a force as to be perfectly distinct from the rock over which it falls, & allows of your penetrating betwixt them, when you descend to the Bed of the River. a Gentleman well accustomed to the measurement of water, conceived from the experiments he made, that this Wall of Water was not less than twenty feet thick, & from its thickness it assumes a deep tinge of green. The Cataract on the American side, called Slusher, presents a foaming brilliant white Sheet. Both the falls receive a thousand different modifications & beautiful tints from the manner in which the Sun happens to strike upon them, from the State of the atmosphere, or the force of the Winds.

The great sublimity of this Scene proceeds, chiefly, from the immense Body of Water which precipitates over the rock. It is in fact the Mass of Water flowing from all the upper Lakes, or interior Seas of Canada. The Lake of the Woods, & Lake Superior, Lake Huron, Lake Michigan, & Lake Erie, the North East end of which last, connects itself with Lake Ontario, by means of the river of Niagara, which is about thirty miles in length from Fort Erie to the Fort of Niagara, & forms a part of the boundary betwixt the United States of America & upper Canada.

Read on in the next post.

posted November 19th, 2015 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Liston, Henrietta Marchant,Niagara Falls,Travel

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