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, CATEGORIES: Maps, Travel

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