“roads beyond description bad”

It was not until December of 1783, after peace had been declared, that Elizabeth House Trist summoned “resolution enough to undertake the Journey” from Philadelphia to join her husband Nicholas who had established himself on land he had purchased in Louisiana. She bade farewell to her mother, who had kept a well-regarded boarding house in Philadelphia during the Revolution, and arranged for the care of her 8-year-old son. Her plan was to travel with a woman named Polly and Alexander Fowler, her husband’s friend, through southern Pennsylvania and reach Pittsburgh, where she intended to spend the winter with the Fowlers. In the spring she would go by boat down the Ohio and continue southward on the Mississippi.

The first leg of her journey was far from easy, especially at that time of year. On December 23 her party arrived at Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and put up at a tavern. Trist kept a diary; following are the entries for December 24th and 25th.

24th Arose very early with an intention to set off before Breakfast, but it set in to snow very fast which detained us till 10 O’ clock; we rode some distance before we baited [fed] our Horses, the roads beyond description bad: we cou’d get no further that day than Elizabeth Town, which is 18 miles from Lancaster. . . .

On the 25th left . . . before Breakfast. The weather’s moderated a little but very ruff roades. . . . We scarse go out of a walk, which makes our journey tedious. We arrived at Chambers’ ferry on the Susquehanna at 3 O Clock PM but found it impassable, such quantity of Ice running. None wou’d attempt to put us over. We were under necessity of staying at the ferry House all night. . . . Were obliged to Sleep in the same room with Mr. Fowler and another man. Not being accustom’d to such inconveniences, I slept but little.

On the 26th Mr. Chambers got several more hands and with great exertions put us over. The boat being full of Horses and the rapidity of the current, together with the Ice, made it very difficult to attain the other shore. My heart almost sunk within me.

In the next post: Trist continues her journey.

The diary excerpts can be found on pages 277-78 of In the Words of Women.

posted December 23rd, 2013 by Janet, CATEGORIES: Travel, Trist, Elizabeth House, Weather

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