Archive for the ‘The South’ Category

“we past Christmas day very agreeably”

Henrietta and Robert Liston were genuinely curious about the New World. (See previous posts here and here.) In her journals, Henrietta noted facts that she found interesting, described the foods they ate, and was astounded at the natural beauties, particularly the flora, of the countryside. Traveling on the east coast of North America was a challenge but one that the 45-year-old Mrs. Liston and her 55-year-old husband met with aplomb, courage, and even laughter.

The first night after leaving Mr. Jones’s Hospitable roof, we were obliged to take up our quarters, in what was called an Inn, Consisting of one room containing two Beds, one for the family, the other for Strangers; there were two young Men travelling on Horseback, besides several Inferior Guests, & I found that all the Party, except our Servants who were in a ruinous outKitchen, must lodge in this Chamber. . . .
One of the Group around the fire appearing intoxicated, & seemingly disposed to amuse himself with a Pistol, I took the Daughter of the House aside, & declared our readiness to be contented with any place, in order to Sleep in a separate apartment from these Men. She regretted that there was nothing but an empty Garrat, used for keeping Corn, without fire or door, & an open window. it was frost & snow, but we had taken our resolution, & we repaired to an old flat Bed, that happened to be in this miserable Place &, indeed, we were within a very little of being frozen to Death, notwithstanding an Eddadown [Eiderdown] Green silk Bedcover with which we travelled, & it was with some difficulty the Girl, next morning, could prevail on the Savages to let me approach the fire so as to thaw my fingers.

On Christmaseve 9Sunday December 24 1797), the Listons reached Fayetteville:

[I]t is a flourishing Town, upon a Branch of the Capefear River & nearly at the head of the navigation—before the [Revolutionary] War it was called Cross Creek. We were visited by a Scotch Gentleman, named [Robert] Donaldson, with whose family we past Christmas day very agreeably.

No doubt they were happy to spend the day with a fellow Scot, but Mrs. Liston does not give any details of the festivities. On New Year’s Eve, they arrived in Charleston, South Carolina. Two hundred years ago, Christmas and New Year’s Day—unlike today with its frenzied gift buying—were spent quietly at home or in paying social visits to friends; special foods for the occasion would have been served. Perhaps the Donaldsons prepared one of Mrs. Liston’s newly discovered favorites:

our most frequent food, & infinitely the best of its kind, was Pork & Corn bread . . . it was fresh & most excellent meat, . . . always broiled upon the Coals, & when we happened to get a few fryed Eggs to it, it was the best food possible & with Corn bread (no other is known) baked upon a hoe, in general, & call[ed] hoe cake.

(More about the Listons’ travels in the next post.)

Excerpts are taken from “1797. Tour to the Southern States—Virginia, North & South Carolina” in The Travel Journals of Henrietta Marchant Liston: North America and Lower Canada, 1796-1800, published in hardcover and eBook.

posted December 11th, 2014 by Louise, Comments Off on “we past Christmas day very agreeably”, CATEGORIES: Charleston. SC,Food,Holidays,Liston, Henrietta Marchant,The South,Travel

“letters of recommendation to private Houses”

Arriving in Norfolk (see previous post), Henrietta Marchant Liston and her husband enjoyed a few weeks there, where they were royally entertained by local residents and officers of the British Navy. Mrs. Liston’s family members departed for home in Antigua, and Henrietta and Robert set off again in a

light Post Chaise, four good Horses, & one for a Servant, (for to our surprise we found that Norfolk did not afford Carriages or Horses to hire, & the land Carriage to Carolina is so little in use, that no Public Stages are established) having heard only formidable accounts of this journey we . . . hired three free Mulattos, two as Postillions, & one as a riding Servant, these Men know the Country, & could submit to its inconveniences.

There are three roads through the Carolina’s, the High, the Middle, & the Low; we chose to set out by the Middle one, having fewer Ferries & Swamps to engage with, than in the Lower, & we reserved the High one, for our return, in perhaps worse weather.

The post chaise and horses not only carried the Listons and their servants, but also their belongings: clothes for travel and formal visits, their eiderdown quilt and sheets—probably a good idea considering the likelihood of lice and other bugs found in mattresses at inns. The servants carried their own clothing and bedding. Somewhere in this small vehicle were stowed provisions, including a cocoa pot. The Listons quickly established their routine: rising at about 5 A.M., on the road by 6, and traveling some miles before stopping for breakfast. In the early afternoon, they would stop for dinner and, with any luck, find supper and a bed in the evening. While there were many inns or taverns on roads near cities such as Philadelphia, this was not the case in the South.

It is common through the Southern States to have letters of recommendation to private Houses, there being often no Inns, & when there are, the accommodations very wretched. it is not, indeed, an uncommon thing, even without Introduction, to drive up to a Gentleman’s House & to be always well received. We were rather pleased sometimes to avail ourselves of this custom, in order to observe the manner of living of an Independent Country Gentleman in a New Country.

Taverns, as Mrs. Liston carefully pointed out, differed from inns by being the “Houses of little Planters, who, from their own poverty, & for the conveniency of a few travellers, take money for giving what they have to you & your Horses nothing can be found fault with, for nothing can be mended.”

In Halifax, North Carolina, they used one of the letters of recommendation to stay with the planter Willie Jones:

[his] character was singular, & his Politics inimical to the English, He was from Principal a republican, & even thought the authority of the President [John Adams] approached too near the Kingly power. He told us himself of having once refused to receive Gen. Washington, George the first being nearly the same to king as George the third. . . .

The Listons so much enjoyed their visit with Jones and his wife Mary that they stayed an extra day.

(More to come in the next post.)

Henrietta’s commentary is taken from “1797. Tour to the Southern States—Virginia, North & South Carolina” inThe Travel Journals of Henrietta Marchant Liston: North America and Lower Canada, 1796-1800, published in hardcover and eBook. The 1795 map of North Carolina is from NCSA.

posted December 8th, 2014 by Louise, Comments Off on “letters of recommendation to private Houses”, CATEGORIES: Liston, Henrietta Marchant,The South,Travel

“the heavy Cloud that hangs over us”

Harriott Pinckney Horry, the daughter of Charles Pinckney and Eliza Lucas, and wife of Daniel Huger Horry, was preparing in late 1775 to flee her native Charleston, South Carolina. Two British warships had been lying offshore since the summer; in early November the president of the Provincial Congress gave orders to the commanding officer at nearby Fort Johnson to take action should the ships attempt to pass. The city, threatened with bombardment was practically defenseless. Harriott wrote the following letter expressing her feelings of unease and anxiety to a cousin in Georgetown, some fifty miles to the north.

28th Novr. 1775At about this Season of the year I used to flatter myself with the pleasure of seeing my dear Cousin, and enjoying that free & unreserved conversation so pleasing to the social mind. . . . But alas! how uncertain is the prospect of this felicity now! how uncertain ’tis when we shall meet again! My Mother, Daniel [her young son] and myself intend to go to a little Plantation House at Ashepoo in search of safety, when we can stay no longer here; but think with what reluctance I must leave the place of my nativity, this poor unhappy Town, devoted to the Flames, when I leave in it my Husband, Brothers, and every known male relation I have, (infants excepted,) exposed to every danger that can befall it. . . .

[Your husband] will inform you of affairs here and of the Mortifying truth of the number of disaffected in our Province to ye. American cause. I really believe tho’ the Gaiety and levity reported of our Sex in Town is very unjust. I have seen very little of the first, and nothing of the last for many months, indeed I think rather an universal dejection appears at present, the heavy Cloud that hangs over us ready to burst upon our heads calls for all our Fortitude to meet the Awful Event with that decency and resignation becoming Xtians [Christians]; the Scandalous conduct of many among us, leaves us not much to hope, a most humiliating Circumstance to all true lovers of their Country. Almost all the Women, and many hundred Men have left Town. In a few days I imagine we shall hardly have a female acquaintance to speak to. . . . My Brother [Charles C. Pinckney] is at ye Fort. Tom [Thomas Pinckney] at present recruiting. Mr Horry goes to ye Fort next Friday to stay a month.
Adieu my dear Cousin, be assured of the most sincere attachment &c —

Most of the above letter can be found on page 141 of In the Words of Women. The remainder can be found in Eliza Pinckney by Harriott Horry Ravenel (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1896), pages 248-249, taken from the facsimile copy held by the Library of Congress, available online.

posted December 1st, 2014 by Janet, Comments Off on “the heavy Cloud that hangs over us”, CATEGORIES: Charleston. SC,Horry, Harriet Pinckney,The South

“the worst figure . . . can kill . . . even a General Wolfe”

The Scotswoman Janet Schaw, visiting her brother in North Carolina, had occasion to see the drilling of the local militia in Wilmington. Past posts from her Journal can be seen here, here, and here, and here. Schaw is scathing in her description of the poorly clad men, inebriated, and sloppy in their performance, but cautions her reader not to underestimate them.

We came down this morning in time for the review which the heat made as terrible to the spectators as to the soldiers, or what you please to call them. They had certainly fainted under it, had not the constant draughts of grog supported then. Their exercise was that of bush-fighting, but it appeared so confused and so perfectly different from any thing I ever saw, I cannot say whether they performed it well or not; but this I know that they were heated with rum till capable of committing the most shocking outrages. We stood on the balcony of Doctor Cobham’s house and they were reviewed on a field mostly covered with what are called here scrubby oaks, which are only a little better than brushwood. They at last however assembled on the plain field, and I must really laugh while I recollect their figures: 2000 men in their shirts and trousers, preceded by a very ill-beat drum and a fiddler, who was also in his shirt with a long sword and a cue at his hair, who played with all his might. They made indeed a most unmartial appearance. But the worst figure there can shoot from behind a bush and kill even a General Wolfe.

In the following incident Schaw describes how a man who incurred the wrath of the militia barely escaped being tarred and feathered. This punishment is indeed horrifying. It is important to note, however, that the “tar” was not the hot substance we associate with the repair of roads. It was pine tar which is soft at normal temperatures. This is not to imply that being tarred with this substance was not unpleasant even though it was usually applied to someone who was clothed. Feathers clung to the tarred victim who was often carried around town on a rail, which was certainly painful. If the victim was tarred unclothed removing the substance undoubtedly tore away skin with it. A “dreadful operation” indeed.

Before the review was over, I heard a cry of tar and feather. I was ready to faint at the ideal of this dreadful operation. I would have gladly quitted the balcony, but was so much afraid the Victim was one of my friends, that I was not able to move; and he indeed proved to be one, tho’ in a humble station. For it was Mr. Neilson’s poor English groom. You can hardly conceive what I felt when I saw him dragged forward, poor devil, frighted out of his wits. However at the request of some of the officers, who had been Neilson’s friends, his punishment was changed into that of mounting on a table and begging pardon for having smiled at the regt. He was then drummed and fiddled out of the town, with a strict prohibition of ever been seen in it again.

Journal of a Lady of Quality; Being the Narrative of a Journey from Scotland to the West Indies, North Carolina, and Portugal, in the years 1774 to 1776, edited by Evangeline Walker Andrews, in collaboration with Charles McLean Andrews (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1921) pages 190-191. The Journal can be found online HERE.

posted July 31st, 2014 by Janet, Comments Off on “the worst figure . . . can kill . . . even a General Wolfe”, CATEGORIES: Patriots,The South

The only drawbridge in the colonies

Janet Schaw’s Journal of a Lady of Quality is a rich source of information about North Carolina just prior to the Revolution. Schaw had set out from Edinburgh in 1774 with her brother and the children of another brother in North Carolina to whom she was delivering them. A description of her sea voyage on a ship that she calls her “little wooden kingdom” appeared in this post, and her encounter with an alligator was described here, and her description of local inhabitants here. Below Schaw describes a trip from Wilmington, North Carolina, on a road that crosses a river on a drawbridge.

The road begins at Wilmington and goes clear across the country to Virginia on one side and South Carolina on the other, and as its course lies across the river, it is crossed by a bridge, which tho’ built of timber is truly a noble one, broader than that over the Tay at Perth. It opens at the middle to both sides and rises by pullies, so as to suffer ships to pass under it. The road is sufficiently broad to allow fifty men to march abreast, and the woods much thinner of trees that anywhere I have seen them. The pasture under these trees is far from bad, tho’ the hot season has parched it a good deal. Off from this wood lie many plantations, which however are hid amongst the trees from the view of the road, and not easy of access from it. Point Pleasant lies about four miles off from it—part of the way is thro’ the woods, where the path is devious and uncertain to those that are unacquainted with it. About a mile or little more from Point Pleasant, begins a most dismal swamp thro’ the middle of which there is a road made with infinite labour, raised on piles covered with branches, and over all sods; and it is by no means comfortable to drive a carriage over it, as the swamps on either hand appear unfathomable, and I would really believe them so, did not the noble Magnolias, the bays and a thousand Myrtles convince me it had a bottom from which they spring. (p202-203)

The bridge Schaw describes is thought to be the only drawbridge in the colonies. There had been a ferry over the river until 1766 when the owner of the land on both sides of the river, Captain Heron, was authorized to build a bridge. The ferry was discontinued and Heron was allowed to erect a gate and collect tolls.

Journal of a Lady of Quality; Being the Narrative of a Journey from Scotland to the West Indies, North Carolina, and Portugal, in the years 1774 to 1776, edited by Evangeline Walker Andrews, in collaboration with Charles McLean Andrews (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1921) pages 202-203. The Journal can be found online HERE.

posted July 28th, 2014 by Janet, Comments Off on The only drawbridge in the colonies, CATEGORIES: The South

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