“Our company heartily tired & sick of the boat”

In the previous post SUSAN LIVINGSTON described settling in Ohio after her marriage to John Cleves Symmes. Where did she live while the new house to her design was being built? There are no records of what she found when she arrived in North Bend. Clues may be gleaned perhaps in a novel Susan Anne L. Ridley wrote years later. On the first page of The Young Emigrants, a footnote states: “It may not be superfluous to say, that much of the matter of the Following Tale, has been supplied by personal observation.” The story features a young girl who, in early November 1794, travels with her aunt and uncle from New York City to their new home on the Ohio. The description must be close to what Susan Livingston Symmes first encountered:

It was a cabin of about sixteen feet square, formed of unhewn timber, filled in with ‘chinking’ of clay, some of which had fallen out, and admitted both light and cold. The creaking door, hung on wooden hinges, was fastened with a wooden latch, and opened in the same inartificial manner as that of Red Riding-hood’s grandmother. So rude in all respects was the workmanship of the room, that it might be questioned if a single nail had been expended on it. The floor was formed of unplaned boards, that had been employed in the construction of arks, which, after conveying the emigrants, had been converted into their habitations. . . . Mrs. Stanley look around despairingly, . . . at seeing what she was given to understand was the best room in the house . . .

Mrs. Symmes had a difficult time adjusting to her new abode but she became close with members of her husband’s family. Nonetheless, she missed her own friends and relatives. In late April 1798, she decided to make her first trip back east to visit her family but also to reunite her niece, Susan Anne Ridley with her mother. Moreover, the young girl’s further education needed to be considered, and Aunt Susan probably felt that the wilds of Ohio were no longer suitable.

The 24th. April 1798-at 3oClock P.M.I embarked at Cincinnati in Mr. Goudy’s keel boat to ascend the Ohio to Pittsburgh on my way to the City of New York—the Passengers Mrs. Gillman, Mrs. Zeigler & Miss Greene & Mr. Simmons bound for Marietta, Mrs. Chambers for Chambersburg, her son in Law mr. Israel Ludlow accompanies us. My Niece Susan Anne L. Ridley who came out to the Miamis with me, I now take back to her Mother to be educated in N.Y.—we reached no farther than Columbia the 24th a settlement 6 miles above Cin[cinnati]: half a mile below the mouth of the little Miami—this first night Susan Ann & myself lodged at Major Stites’s, the rest of the Party at Kibby’s Inn. . . .

25th. April wednesday morning at 11 oClock left Columbia; gained only 6 miles the river being very high, encamped on the Kentucky side, a heavy shower came on at the time we had supped & pitched our tent which did not cast off the rain so we were considerably soaked, it continued raining all night—our Health did not suffer in consequence of it.

26th. thursday A high contrary wind this day obliged us to lie still, until the afternoon, when we advanced only 7 miles, & encamped in the woods again that night.

27th. friday—Reached Mr. Walters Cabbin, tolerably accommodated.

28th Saturday—Nothing remarkable; at night encamped in the Forest.

29th Sunday—Reached Limestone [later Maysville] in the evening 65 miles from Cin: supped & lodged at Mr. Martins Inn—a disagreeable Town, tho one of the most considerable Landings in Kentucky. Our Company heartily tired & sick of the boat [it] being amazingly crowded, very dirty, & no convenient place for preserving our provisions—the river being full, the boat keeps us near as possible to the shore, so that [we] are greatly incommoded by the limbs of trees that . . . tear down the awning, break the [posts] that support it, often endanger our heads . . . ; the boat heavy laden, weakly manned, the men making too free with Whiskey; all these circumstances combine to retard our progress, & promise a tedious passage.

30th Monday morning left Limestone, could not make our Stage at a Cabbin, had our usual resource the woods—a little above Massy’s Station, & the 3 Islands, which present a beautiful & picturesque view, Massy’s Station occupies a beautiful bottom on the Indian side, at the point of the lowest of the 3 islands – we had an agreeable walk on the bank opposite this settlement—we find our daily rambles in the woods very refreshing, & a prodigious releif [sic] from the boat, we walked . . . faster than the boat moved. . . .

Susan Anne Ridley (1788-1867) married Theodore Sedgwick, Jr. (1780-1839), and became a well-known novelist of children’s literature, e.g., The Young Emigrants (1830).

In her later years, Susan Livingston Symmes lived with the Sedgwicks in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Her tombstone states first that she was the daughter of William Livingston, and second, the ‘relict’ (widow) of John C. Symmes.

From “Some notes of Mrs. Symmes passage up the Ohio 1798”, fragmentary pages in the William Livingston Papers, at the Massachusetts Historical Society. The illustration is from The Young Emigrants.


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