MICHIGAN TRAILS -
GENEALOGY and HISTORY

Line Divider

A TRIP TO MICHIGAN in 1841

Published in Rochester N.Y. 1904

Journal of Lansing B. Swan


Vacationing in southern Michigan for three weeks in 1841, Lansing Swan was a resident of Rochester, New York. This database is a brief journal written by him chronicling the trip. It recounts his overland journey to the Midwest, including a weekend in Ann Arbor, and stops in Jackson, Marshall, and the Genesee Praries (near Kalamazoo). It also provides descriptions of such Michigan cities as Summerville, Clinton, and Saline. In addition to tracing the journey west, it provides commentary regarding the flora of the area and life aboard a Great Lake steamer. For those persons attempting to better understand the culture of nineteenth century Michigan, this can be an illuminating narrative.

Lansing B. Swan, whose little leather-covered journal is here reproduced, was born at Onondaga Valley, in 1809, and came to Rochester in 1830. He served as the first alderman from the old second ward and was a prominent business man until the time of his death. He was closely identified with the city in a military way, having organized the old Rochester Union Grays, served for many years as its Captain and later as Brigadier General of the Militia from Utica to Buffalo. In 1860 he made a trip by sea from New York to Nassau and Havana, hastening home from there to offer his service to his country at the outbreak of the Civil War, but death claimed him and he passed away in December 1861. Although this journal covers only so short a period of time, (from June 9th to June 27th), and was written for the eyes of his wife and father, yet it is full of interest and presents a striking picture of the country as it was sixty and more years ago, of the hardships of travel by stage coach, steamship and railroad.

Line Divider

Wednesday, June 9, 1841.--Left Rochester at half past 9 p. m.--stretched out on a seat in the car and fell asleep, awaking at Churchville and again at Batavia. Take coach (two in company), the moon coming up bright and beautiful. Clear and uncomfortably cold even with my heavy coat. After a cold and very unpleasant ride, arrived at Buffalo at half past 7 a. m. (Thursday) the tenth, just time to clean up for breakfast. Met Lieut. Pitkin on the stairs, invites me to attend the drill at the barracks this p. m. Walked out and called upon Hinsdale. He walked down to the dock with me, found two boats going up the lake; the Madison, a large boat, at 3 p. m., and the Cleveland, a smaller and much neater boat at 8 p. m. Secured berth No. 16 on the Cleveland. Just at the moment of writing the above, Mr. Temple slapped me on the shoulder. He insists upon my leaving with him on the Madison at 3 o'clock. I have acceded to it for the sake of a companion, and am now scribbling away on board the Steamship Madison, Captain McFayden. This is the largest steamer on the lakes, extreme length 210 feet, breadth 52 & half;. She is tolerably well laden with freight, also horses, besides a goodly number of cabin and deck passengers, and as we are moving with majesty through the green water of Lake Erie, my thoughts involuntarily turn towards those I have left at home, and I would fain look in upon that spot where my dear ones are. How quickly do we feel the loss of the society of friends when we feel ourselves separated from them, and especially when we are constantly increasing the distance that separates us. The lake is not exactly smooth, although the sky is clear. The dancing of the green waves with their white crests as far as the eye can reach is truly beautiful.

6 o'clock p. m.--I am sitting in dining saloon (large enough for a small church) on the middle deck. The waiters are rattling the tea dishes upon the table, and soon I shall, I trust, get a sip of that important herb, by the by I don't mean to say the herb in its crude state but a decoction of it only. Speaking of tea, have just been forward the wheels and saw a family of deck passengers taking their tea off a box. It appeared to be swallowed with unusual zest. A little girl about the age of my Libby, among the deck passengers, was screaming with pain in the stomach and bowels; the mother was doing all she could for her. I went to the ship's medicine chest and got some medicine for her which she was persuaded to take by a promise of some lozenges from my pocket. It was truly gratifying to see how quick it relieved her. I have just been playing with a little child about the age of little Bertha. She belongs to one of the cabin ladies.

Mr. Temple has just called me out on deck to see two steamers; one meeting us to leeward and the other to windward, appear to be very large, going towards Buffalo with all sails set in addition to their steam. Tea bell rings, sat down and ate with an enormous appetite. The effect of my journey upon the stomach is quite apparent already. After tea strolled about the capacious decks but find myself very sleepy and at a little before 9 o'clock retired to my stateroom to go to bed. Had hardly touched the bed before I was asleep, having slept so little the night previous. About 12 awoke by a great noise and ascertained that it was in making the landing at Erie where we were detained three or four hours. (I should have mentioned that after tea last evening we ran into Dunkirk Harbor). This morning my room mate awoke me at 6:30 o'clock, I got up, washed and dressed, feeling much refreshed.

Friday, 11th.--7 o;clock, breakfast bell. Ate a hearty breakfast, coffee bad, it could no doubt be improved by having the compound contain more coffee and less peas. After breakfast was much surprised by discovering the Cleveland which left Buffalo five hours after us, now astern. She is a faster boat and has overtaken us on account of some delay at Erie. She passes us within a quarter of a mile to leeward. Several sail in sight 9 o'clock a. m. Friday the Eleventh.--Just made the harbor of Conneaut. As we approach, the Cleveland is backing out having made the landing. On coming out into the lake again the breeze is freshening and if I am not mistaken before night our meals will be "like water spilled upon the ground." 10 o'clock.--Just touched the pier at Ashtabula. The boat is rolling considerably. A large ship at leeward under full press of sail apparently beating up, makes a splendid appearance, she being so far off that her hull is not visible. Mr. Temple and myself are sitting in our stateroom looking over our maps. How often I am carried back to my own home, perhaps my dear E. is thinking that I am enjoying myself without a thought of her. Am intimation of the kind before I left which I hardly noticed at the time has annoyed me a good deal today. What! forget my wife? she who was my first choice and shared my first love? who for more than ten long years has been the partner of my joys and sorrows, the mother of my children and especially of that one who is now no doubt in his disembodied spirit joining the celestial throng in Heaven chanting the praises of his Redeemer. And may God in mercy grant that we may rightly appreciate all our blessings and may God spare us yet many years in mercy and in love for ourselves and children.

12:30 o'clock.--Since writing the above I have been reading Willis’ Romance of Travel (a very interesting book) sitting on the stern deck. About an hour later we met the splendid steamer Illinois. We are now running close in upon the opposite shore. The lake is quite rough but our monstrous boat or ship walks quietly through the turbulent waves. I find my nice slippers very comfortable and the two rabbits wrought by the hands of my dear E. are constantly bringing to my recollection home with its scenes. Query. Shall I copy my journal thus far for the subject of a letter from Detroit? We shall see after dinner, about which I have an increasing anxiety. 3 p. m.--Dinner over and we have made the harbor of Fairport, Ohio, where the vessel has taken wood. While lying at the wharf we went ashore and looked about. Nothing of interest to be seen. 28 miles more brings us Cleveland, after we leave there I may commence a letter. 4 o'clock, p. m.--Since leaving Fairport we have met two steamers, passing close to them, the Erie and General Harrison. It is getting late in the afternoon and if I can get paper and ink will commence a letter. 6 o'clock p. m.--Just finished my letter and we are lying to off Cleveland, some of our machinery having broken. After an hour's delay machinery repaired and we are making the harbor of Cleveland. This is a beautiful place and reminds me of Oswego. On the opposite side of the Cuyahoga River (which forms the harbor) is situated Ohio City. We are coming to the dock. Shall go ashore and look at the city. The captain gives us an hour. After being ashore forty minutes we started for the boat. As soon as we came in sight found her rounding to for her departure. We had a fine chance to try our speed and arrived just in time to jump into a coal boat and from thence onto the stern of steamer.

The captain laughed to see us in such a form and said he wouldn't have left us, but I had just been thinking what a nice fix I should have been in to have my clean shirts (to say nothing of other fixings) taken to Chicago, and this with my wet back and streaming cheeks did not put me in a mood for listening to any jesting about the matter. 9 o'clock (evening).--Out on the broad lake again and steaming for Detroit direct so I will go to bed.

Saturday morning 12th.--Awoke by Mr. Temple. He said we were passing Walden on the Detroit River, (why call this a river?) it is a strait connecting Lake St. Claire with Erie. However the shores are beautiful. Breakfast on board, and by 8:30 o'clock reached Detroit. Now for a row with the runners; "Baggage for the National," "Carriage for the Exchange," etc., all talking at once. We go to the National where I am now writing. Walked out and called at some of the drug stores: Talked about the dignified subject soda water and discussed most particularly the great advantages of Swan's Atmospheric Fountain. Great man that Swan to invent an article so useful to mankind in general and the soda mongers in particular.

When we arrived we were informed there was no conveyance until Monday morning and had settled ourselves comfortably in regard to rooms, etc. Walked down to N. G. Barracks and saw that interesting ceremony guard mounting, after which I went to the railroad depot and with some urging they consented to send out an extra train to Ann Arbor this p. m. at 3 o'clock. This will get us on one day earlier though we shall have to spend the Sabbath at Ypsilanti where it is said they have a fine band which plays every evening at sunset for the benefit of citizens and strangers, the bull frogs supplying the bass and the small ones the tenor and soprano. Left Detroit 3 p. m. by railroad, thirty miles to Ypsilanti, arrived there at 5:30 o'clock. Well it's no use for me to be a rogue and attempt to escape justice. No sooner do I set foot in any place than I hear from somebody "How are you Mr. Swan?" or perhaps more briefly and less gentlemanly "How are you Swan?" Found several acquaintances and among them one I was very glad to find, viz., D. Allen who owes us $94. Couldn't pay me but $48 which I took very cheerfully.

We got an excellent supper here for 25 cents and each and as many large delicious strawberries with rich cream. While coming up on the railroad we waited for the other train at Dearborn Arsenal and after visiting the arsenal I picked some strawberries. They grow here spontaneously and are very large. After tea at Ypsilanti, not liking our quarters to stay over the Sabbath, we hired a wagon to take us to Ann Arbor 10 miles. After a pleasant ride over a fine road and through a delightful country we arrived at the latter place about 8 o'clock. We found an excellent hotel and no sooner had I seated myself by the fire, being a little chilly, than in came John Frink who was with Loomis; soon after Henry Williams, formerly of Utica, came in. At 10 o'clock we came up to our room. Settled our travelling acounts and found my expenses thus far $16.50. Must now go to bed. To-morrow if life and health are spared shall go to church, and will also say something about the beautiful village of Ann Arbor. Sunday noon 13th.--Breakfast and went to hear the Rev. Mr. Cummings formerly of St. Luke's Church, Rochester. A good sermon and very pretty church. Am informed that Mrs. M. F. Reynolds is quite unwell at Mr. Cummings’ house. In the afternoon went to hear Mr. Cleveland, Presbyterian. Poor sermon. While standing at the last singing saw Mr. John Welles and family in one of the pews. He resides here and has a beautiful place. After tea I went out to call there but a shower drove me back. Ann Arbor is a delightful place of about two or three thousand inhabitants and is in every respect a much nearer and more thriving place than any of its size in our own state.

There are five churches and a state university now building on a scale of magnificence far beyond Union College at Schenectady, besides many other very fine public and private buildings. I do not wonder that people are made crazy by coming to Michigan if what I have seen is a specimen of the country. To morrow morning I take stage 105 miles west to Kalamazoo. Shall keep up my journal but do not know where I can write another letter, having just finished a long one to mail here. Monday, June 14th.--Left Ann Arbor with the good-byes of a number of Rochester acquaintances, at 12:30 o'clock by stage for Kalamazoo. Passed through the most beautiful country I ever saw, the ground all along the road richly ornamented with wild flowers and dotted with crimson by the thousand of strawberries which cover it everywhere, the road being entirely natural. Our driver with his post coach drove in the road or woods as he fancied, in fact you may ride through this country anywhere, through the forest with horses and carriage. We passed to-day a great number of natural meadows of hundreds of acres, never cultivated in the least. All that the farmer has to do is, when the grass is ready, send on his men and mow it down. This called in distinction from cultivated hay "wild hay" and the other "tame hay." Passing through a number of small villages in the woods we arrive at Jackson (a considerable place), just in time for tea with strawberries and cream. At this place is the states prison. It is but part finished, but the plan is one extensive enough, and does credit to the astonishing enterprise of this young state.

After tea at Jackson we again take seat in the coach and here I have left my fellow traveller, Mr. Temple, after having had his company nearly a week. The night was very cold and damp and the road quite bad. After a very tedious ride arrive at Marshall at 5:00 o'clock in the morning. Tuesday, 15th.--It is a beautiful place. Joseph Frink resides here, also S. S. Alcott. E. S. Lee came here when he ran away from R., but has since gone to Detroit. This place is to be the capitol of the state. After breakfast left Marshall and rode through a fine section of country, 34 miles, passing over one or two beautiful prairies, to Kalamazoo, where we arrived at 2:30 p. m. Making enquiry as to where Norris resides, find that he is in the village attending court as a Grand Juror, just the employment I should have been in had I been at home to-day. I am now awaiting dinner and have sent over for Norris. 4 o'clock p. m.--I have just shaken hands with Norris. He is occupied on a jury and cannot leave now. I therefore hired a conveyance to his home. He resides on Genesee Prairie about five miles from the fine village of Kalamazoo. This village pleases me much, in fact I like its location and general appearance better than any I have before seen and one thing I remarked in particular, it is one of the few places where you will not see the pale and yellow faces peculiar to those suffering from fever and ague. A short ride and I am at Norris's house, "beautiful spot). Of course, a cordial and hearty greeting from sister Harriet, and I am comfortably settled for a day or two. In the evening Norris came home and after a long talk, went to a nice clean bed, which by the by has been somewhat rare lately.

Wednesday, June 16th.--Awoke by a call from sister Harriet. Found it a charming day and such music from wild birds I never heard. Norris has in all about 400 acres of land here, about 200 of which are improved and under cultivation, his farm being upon the edge of the prairie and part of it timber land giving him a great advantage. He has about 150 acres of prairie. Genesee Prairie includes about 800 acres as level as a floor, and from looking at it now with its fences and houses, one would suppose it had been settled half a century there. Prairies are interspersed throughout the western part of the state and are without exception most beautiful. Some of them are very large, including hundreds and thousands of acres. The land upon them is as rich as any in the world and inhabitants perfectly healthy, many having as red cheeks as I have ever seen. Norris's house is of wood and a far better one than many fairness can boast of in our own state. He has five horses, five or six cow, oxen, pigs, sheep, etc., large barns and in fact everything comfortable, but I cannot write a description of his excellent farm. To-day we went to a lake nearby where he has a boat. The weather was not favorable, however I caught two pickerel one of which would weigh seven or eight pounds. Norris is now building a farm house for a tenant to manage his form so that soon he will be quite independent. He raises this year, besides his other crops, 1000 bushels of wheat with the assistance of but two men.

Thursday, 17th.--Awoke this morning by the singing of the birds and intended to have sat in the house to-day, but two gentlemen coming up from the village wished to go a fishing and we concluded to go with them, and in a few hours I caught 10 which would weigh at least 40 pounds. While we were fishing, Harriet and her "Maid of Honor" went out picking strawberries. In short to-day was passed very pleasantly and Norris and Harriet have concluded to go with me to Louisa's. This is very agreeable. Besides the pleasure of their company, there is no means conveyance and I should have to hire a private one, which would be expensive, as the distance is 53 miles.

Friday, 18th.--Left Norris's at 6:00 o'clock. He, having lost one of his time span of horses, we are obliged to take his heavy ploughing team. We passed through a fine section of the country to-day, traveling six or eight miles without seeing a house and passing through the most beautiful woods imaginable. It seems quite impossible for me to fear lonely in these woods for the resemblance is nearer that of a beautiful orchard than to a wilderness. As we jogged along to-day a fine large buck stood out from before us. He stopped a few rods off and looked at us through me wished a further acquaintance. There being no decent tavern on the road H. has brought our dinner and, as we stop to feed our horses we all ate with an excellent appetite. We were now detained in a rainstorm. I soon found that the detention was on my account, Norris and Harriet not minding the rain. We therefore drove on and got some wet. At Summerville, nine miles from Brooks, are were obliged to stop for the night. Got to a tolerable supper and comfortably clean beds. Norris and Harriet having the only bed room below stairs, I was obliged to sleep up stairs with the "School Marm," she going to bed first and I having got up first. The interference was not felt as there was a short partition across the end where the bed was. Harriet says, however, that she will tell my wife all about it and particularly that I did sleep with the "School Marm."

We left here at 4 o'clock this morning, Saturday, 19th, and at about 7 we were in sight of Louisa's. I jumped out about a quarter of a mile before reaching it, and after she had welcomed Harriet I opened the gate, when she called out "there is Lansing Swan" and her joy seemed quite full for she ran out and threw her arms about my neck. She did not discover my trick for some time but supposed our meeting accidental as she was expecting me about this time. Here we are at Louisa's clean and nice log house enjoying each others society. Brooks has a splendid farm of 160 acres. He has not got it so much improved as Norris but is now building a house for a tenant and will in a few years have a splendid place. He is located three miles from the flourishing village of Niles on the border of a small prairie which is at the head of navigation on the St. Joseph River at the mouth of which steam boats from Buffalo to Chicago touch. This afternoon we went about five miles to Pine Lake fishing while Harriet, Louisa and her girl went after strawberries which grow here of monstrous size. We go two large pickerel and the girls got about a half bushel of the largest strawberries I have ever seen. It would hardly be believed if I should give the size and quantities of these berries. This evening we sat down to a feast and could I have had the company of my wife I should have been quite happy. The only consolation I could have was to talk of my wife and children, and I am sure I ate strawberries for the whole family. Louisa's children are very interesting, their little May I can compare to nothing but a sylph. She bounds and springs about more like a fairy than a thing of earth. Louisa and both of the children are pictures of health. Harriet and Norris occupying the parlor chamber, Louisa gave me a cot in the parlor, and after a comfortable night's rest awoke Sunday morning the 20th, refreshed. This is one of the most beautiful mornings I have ever seen since I left home.

After a strawberry breakfast Brooks and myself started for church at Niles, four miles. Heard an excellent sermon from Mr. Boughton, the minister. In the intermission we went to the "American" to dinner, and in the afternoon went again to church. It was communion and an interesting season. The congregation would not suffer in comparison (in appearance) with any village in N. York: After church we came in time for another strawberry repast and a rich one it was. We had a new dish, "Strawberry Short Cake," very fine indeed, and it only lacked the presence of my dear B. and the children to make the enjoyment complete. This evening we sat and talked until 11 o'clock and now, half past eleven, I am writing up my journal. Norris leaves at 4 o'clock in the morning. He leaves Harriet here for two weeks to wait the arrival of a box of articles from Onondaga which he is anxiously expecting. I should have mentioned that the presents I brought were received with great pleasure. Louisa has become reconciled to the loss of her furniture and is now very comfortable. She says she has not called a physician since she came into the state and she looks as well as I ever saw her, but I must go to bed as I leave for home to-morrow evening, and shall have in two nights 200 miles of traveling in reaching Detroit.

Monday, 21.--Awoke this morning at 7. Norris had left at 4 and left Harriet here to remain about a week. We took our strawberry breakfast and Brooks brought up his lumber wagon and we all "piled in," little Fred being our driver, and started for little La Porte Prairie about five miles south, in the state of Indiana (the Hoosier State.) We had a carpet of strawberries nearly all the way, passed several Hoosier's nests but did not stop to see if the hold Hoosier "was on." The prairie is a beautiful one and I can compare these prairies to nothing better than an immense lake of land extending as far as the eye can reach and what is more singular being the highest ground. The name of this prairie rendered in English is Door Prairie, and I regretted to hear it called so after hearing the beautiful French name "La Porte." We returned from our ride about 12 o'clock without picking any strawberries as we intended, it was so very warm. As soon as we came in I made a sketch of a rear and west view of Brook's cabin or mansion. Yesterday took a front and east view. I found I have some talent for sketching, as the children pronounced it "just like our house." We ate dinner together for the last time and I packed my trunk preparatory to leaving. At 2 o'clock Brooks and myself started or the village and I bid my sister farewell after a delightful visit with Harriet of five days and Louisa three days. God only knows when I shall see them again, perhaps not until the last trumpet shall sound when we all hope to meet with all dear friends in Heaven. I found a brother's feelings stronger in parting than I had before experienced. May God in mercy have them in His holy keeping. Brooks took tea with us at the hotel and I parted with him. I am to leave here at 2 o'clock to-night I am now sitting in the reading room writing up journal and indulging in agreeable reflections at the thought of [ turning my face homeward. How are my dearest wife and children? is a question which I ask myself every hour.

Not one word have I heard from home, nor have I seen a paper until this evening in a merchant's store here I saw the weekly Democrat. I caught it up as if it had been a treasure. Could I but know that all is well at home I should feel less anxiety, but why should I feel so anxious? They are in the hands of a merciful Providence who will do right. My journey and visit therefore has been pleasant, but my anxiety about my dear ones at home, and on account of James’ health has been very great. But I must get some sleep before the stage goes, and will resume my journal to-morrow.

Tuesday, 22d.--Left Niles at 1 o'clock and am now on the great turnpike from Detroit to Chicago. We have a miserable breakfast, got up by good-looking, but outrageously dirty women, who, I should think were Hoosiers. Certain I am that in their domestic arrangement they are no credit to the village of "Adamsville." Met Geo. Talbot on the road this morning and made the driver stop until I could shake hands with him. He was on his way to Niles and St. Joseph. At Mottville we crossed the St. Joseph. This is a fine river. I have forgotten to say anything about the wild flowers which adorn the woods and prairies. They are beautiful beyond anything that can be imagined. What a treat for Libby to be among them. Was pleased to find Harriet and May so good botanists. They have taken up and pursued the study and have quite an extensive herbarium already. We passed over to-day White Pigeon Prairie, near the center of which is the beautiful village of that name. The prairie contains about 8000 acres perfectly level and highly cultivated, in fact I think this spot excels any other I have seen. I met a Rochester acquaintance who is a merchant here. 1:00 o'clock we arrived at the Sturgis Prairie Hotel where we are awaiting dinner, to which I am sure I shall do ample justice, as it promises from the appearance of the house to be clean. These dirty meals and dirty women are not quite the thing. I thank Heaven I am not tied up to one of this character and were it not for fear this page will meet her eye I would write out her praises in no measured terms. But for ugly looking women Michigan assuredly excels, as well as in dirty taverns and good looking "school marms". I was not mistaken. We had an excellent dinner, warm cakes, tea, etc., bacon and eggs. I have eaten them until I am ashamed to see a hen and can hardly look a respectable porker in the face. We are on the road again and passing innumerable beautiful lakes and some villages.

At 6:00 o'clock arrived at the village of Cold Water. An excellent name this, but the bar room of a miserable hotel belies its name. Tea is getting ready and a poor one I am sure it will be. We have had 14 passengers in and on the coach to-day, and with the heat and dust this afternoon I am almost worn out. However, must hold out until tomorrow evening when I hope to reach Detroit, and get some sleep on board a steamboat. Oh, how I wish I was home! Must plod along all night instead of being in a comfortable bed. I was somewhat disappointed. We had a tolerable supper, and again on the road. A tedious night and a miserable breakfast this morning, Wednesday, the 23d, where I did not try to remember the name of the place.

At 11 o'clock arrived at a very pretty village called Clinton. The roads as we passed along, carpeted with lillies, roses, etc. 12 o'clock at Saline, ten miles brings us to Ypsilanti where we take cars for Detroit and as we are now about making the last stage I hope it will not bring us to the last stage for I am almost worn out. On my way out I left Ypsilanti the evening of the 12th, and have made my circuit traveling about 400 miles. We expect to be in Detroit about 4:00 o'clock, and the first thing I shall do will be to look for a letter from home, and then take a bath and get shaved, for I am a perfect sight, covered with dirt and dust and my head almost ready to blossom. We arrived at Ypsilanti just in time for the cars and to snatch a hasty dinner, arrived in Detroit at 5:00 o'clock p.m., and I had barely time to look after my baggage, go to the post office and get my letter, get shaved and get some clean clothes on before the boat was off. I met my old fellow traveler, Mr. Temple, at the National. He had waited a day for me. I was obliged to read my letter as I was in the street, and was so hurried that I lost my tea. However, I am now on board the beautiful steam boat "Constellation," going down the Detroit river, and having retired to my stateroom cannot write any more until I have read my letter over again. Could my dearest E. know with what feelings I read this kind letter, I am sure she would not feel (as I suspect she does sometimes) that her husband is wanting in affection towards her and is pleased with the idea of occasionally straying away from home alone. It is now just two weeks since I left home and not a word have I heard from those who alone occupy my affections. I never have experienced so long as absence before, and trust that our Heavenly Father has them still in His holy keeping and will preserve us all to meet again.

What I most regret is that I am obliged to stop at Huron tomorrow and a part of a day at Buffalo, but as I have had no rest for two nights and must leave the boat at 12:00 o'clock I must go to bed, although it is not yet dark. Had a grateful and undisturbed sleep, and was awake at 2:00 o'clock the morning of Thursday the 24th, and at 3:00 landed at Huron. A good looking house, but on going to my room it is miserable enough. However, I must make the best of it and leave by stage for Norwalk (in the Buckeye State) in the morning. Left Huron in a buggy wagon for Norwalk, 12 miles over a bad road. Arrive at Norwalk about 11:00, waited for dinner and finding I could not collect my debt, thought seriously of taking a horse, but in consideration of the expense and trouble of taking him home I gave it up and left the note at the bank for collection. Norwalk is the county seat of Huron County. It is a very pretty village.

I should like very much to take home in a fine horse, as I could get one here very cheap. Dined at 1:00 o'clock and returned to Huron where I am now writing. A tremendous gale has just come on and the boats coming down to-night are both small ones. The Vermillion, as is supposed, has just gone into Sandusky bay, 10 miles above. Prudence would probably dictate that I remain here until a better and safer boat comes down, but my anxiety is so great to get home before Sunday that I believe I shall risk it although this angry lake is lashing herself into a foam. What a pity I did not stay on board the Constellation, for I have only got my delay for my trouble, instead of cash as I expected. Since writing the above the rain has poured down in torrents with terrific thunder and lightning. I have just been up to the observatory and discovered a steamer coming down. She is about 10 miles distant. She came to the dock and it proved to be the Vermillion, having been thoroughly refitted with new engines. She is a fine boat of about 400 tons. I am now on board of her and we are dashing through or rather riding over the waves at a rapid rate. She appears to me to be a good sea boat, is beautifully fitted up with all her cabins (except the steerage) on deck, with staterooms also. I was much pleased on coming on board to find an old friend of father's, Israel Smith, of Rochester, and formerly captain of a packet boat, as captain's clerk, so I got an introduction to Captain Ludlow and a good stateroom with every attention I could wish. The boat labours very much. She writhes and twists with the swells. Many of the passengers are sick, but it does not affect me in the least. I believe my father is too much of an "old salt" for his son to be affected by fresh water; but jesting aside, it is a bad night, and the captain informs me that he shall run into Cleveland and remain until morning, when perhaps the lake will be more calm.

I am very anxious to stop at Erie and perhaps may conclude to do so tomorrow. I think I can and yet reach Buffalo in time to get home Saturday night. At the thought of home my heart beats quicker and I indulge myself in conjecturing at what time I shall arrive, whether in the morning, noon or night, and how I shall find all my dear family. How often have I, since I left home, tried to call to mind the features of my dear wife and children. I recollect to have heard Gilbert, the painter, remark that it was impossible to call to mind the features of near friends when absent from them, and that he had tried to paint a likeness of his wife under such circumstances, but could not. I believe it so, and the reason appears to be that with our nearest friends there is something more than mere looks which fills the mind's eye--it is the voice, the manner, the action that we want, and this is perhaps the reason why portraits so seldom please relatives, while they are pronounced good likenesses by acquaintances.

10 o'clock - I am not yet in bed. I slept so much more than usual last night that I feel but little inclination to sleep to-night. I have thought while keeping this very imperfect journal that it might perhaps interest my dear E. when I returned home, in fact that was one object in commencing it, but it is so badly written and such a heterogeneous mass of truck that I fear no one but myself can read it. Perhaps she may also expect to find in it my thoughts. In this, for the most part, she will not be so much mistaken. Had I time I should like to write to out more at length and in a more grammatical and connected manner; however, in any event, whether copied or not, it will be gratifying to me to look it over. In the letter I read yesterday an allusion is made to a probability of our taking up or abode at the west at some future time. This to me, just now, does not appear probable, although I am delighted with Michigan and can tell a great deal more about it, or can say more in praise of the country, than is written in these pages, yet I cannot say that I should like to go there now to reside--but I must go to bed as we are now at Cleveland and I can sleep quietly.

Friday Morning, 25th.--Had a tolerable night's rest and did not get up until about 7:00, consequently breakfast was on the table as soon as I could get dressed. My stateroom opening into the cabin, I stepped out and took a seat at the table. Had but little appetite, in fact I find that this important quality is decreasing as I approach home, and perhaps it is well or I might turn out and astonish some one, who will know how much I eat. 12:00 o'clock. We have made two or three landings, but they are the same as I noticed going up. At the breakfast table I met with one or two good looking ladies, which was really pleasant, as I really believe I have not seen a half dozen decent looking women (I mean so far as features are concerned) since I left home. The Michigan women, for I cannot write them down ladies, are in looks, the ugliest I have ever seen. I have been reading and lounging in the cabin, time drags heavily. A husband and wife have been sitting at one of the tables holding agreeable converse, and seeing them enjoying each other's society makes me feel more lonely. Why is it necessary we should be deprived of blessings in order that we may fully appreciate them. The pleasure and enjoyments of home, dear home, never came upon my [omitted text]imagination with such force as during this journey. It is probably owing to the fact that usually my time has been occupied while away from home, but during this absence I have experienced many hours of loneliness and had I been in possession of the "fairy rug" alluded to in my wife's letter how quickly would it have been brought in requisition. The swell, which was very heavy when we left Cleveland, has gradually subsided and the boat become quite steady. Some of the passengers have, however, been sick this morning. 2:00 o'clock p. m. A slight fog made its appearance about 12:00 and it has now become so dense that we have been obliged to lay to.

While under way a short time since, on heaving the lead, we were all surprised to find that we were in water scarcely deep enough to float us and in a few moments more must have struck. The boat immediately backed her engines until we found water of sufficient depth. We are supposed to be off the Harbor of Conneaut. The fog is so thick that we cannot see the length of the boat in any direction. We are, however, all the while either ringing the bell or blowing off steam, being in great danger of being struck by some other vessel, which in our present situation would take us to the bottom in an instant. The captain has just sent a boat ashore to make some discovery as to our position and if possible to make the Harbor of Conneaut. 2:30 o'clock. The boat has just returned and reports us to be two miles above the harbor, and we are under way proceeding very slowly and heaving the lead constantly.

The sun struggling to pierce the dense fog with its rays presents a singular appearance. We could not make the harbor, but lay off about two miles, while the small boat went ashore. 4 o'clock. The fog has entirely disappeared and the lake become quite calm. 5 o'clock. We are off the Harbor of Erie, Penn., and will probably land. I ought to stop here to attend to a little business, but am now in so comfortable quarters that I do not like the idea of taking a small, poor boat and the amount of my business not perhaps pay for the delay as the boats charge additional fare for way passengers. For instance, my landing at Huron, with expenses, was $3.75 in addition to what it would have been had I come direct through. We met to-day the Constellation which brought me to Huron. 7 o'clock. We have made the landing at Erie and are again out in the lake. I have retired to my pleasant stateroom, on the upper deck, adjoining the gentlemen's cabin, to write a little and to pass away the time by reading. I find my books very convenient and those I brought with me will just furnish me with reading until I arrive at home. We are to make but one more landing (at Dunkirk) and are but 90 miles from Buffalo, (170 from Rochester). A week ago to-night I was 500 miles from home. I have a little business at Buffalo and cannot, I suppose, get away from Captain Loud before afternoon. 11 o'clock. I have been reading in my stateroom until this time. It commenced raining about 9:00 o'clock and has increased since, with fog and darkness, and as I have just laid by my book to go to bed I notice that the engines are making very few strokes and a man is heaving the lead for we are running a few minutes slowly and then lying to. The lightning is glorious every few minutes, but with all this desolation and darkness it seems providential that the water is almost unruffled.

We are in much greater security from coming in contact with other vessels now than in a fog in the day, as our lights aloft would be more readily seen. Hark, what noise! While I am writing we have struck something--the engines are backing and she goes off. May God in mercy preserve us to see the morning light! I hope the captain will let go an anchor and wait until morning, but I must trust myself to that merciful Providence which has ever been over me in all the dangers to which I have been exposed. Although I do not feel the least terrified, yet it is a dreadful night and much worse than anything I have ever before seen, and how it is thundering and the clouds from which it comes apparently approaching, perhaps bringing with it a gale and we have no harbor but Dunkirk between this and Buffalo. But under all circumstances I must go to bed for my lamp is nearly burned out. Went to bed and in a short time fell asleep. Awoke at 5:00 o'clock.

Saturday, 26th.--The fog continues. We are supposed to be near Buffalo. Still moving very slowly. 6 o'clock. The harbor is discovered and all steam is on, carrying us through the water at a rapid rate. It is raining very hard. 7 o'clock. We are at the dock. I rode to the American in a omnibus. Can hardly consent to stay here to-day, but I must on account of business. Met Captain Loud in the reading room and Mrs. Loud and daughter at breakfast. After breakfast rode up to the barracks with the Captain, Lieut. Pitkin, and some other officers. Saw guard mounting in the rain. It cleared off and at 10 o'clock the troops (about 300) turned out in full uniform for review and field drill. Captain Loud had command of the 1st company. They looked well. After review, the colonel sent them through some battallion evolutions which I was deeply interested in, and which were creditable to the officers and men. The company of light or flying artillery exceeded anything I ever saw. They are a very effective corps. After the parade I came down to the American. The captain remaining at the barracks, requested me to wait upon his wife and Miss Julia at dinner, which of course I did in my very best style. Dinner over and I have attended to what business I have on hand, and shall leave for home at 5 o'clock via Batavia. 1-4 before 5. I am just going to pack up my traps to be off, and the satisfaction I derive from the reflection that in eight or nine hours, if life is spared, I shall be in my own dear home can be felt but not described. This American is a great house. Looking into the parlor to-day I was reminded of the time I saw it before in company with my dear E. in 1836, I think. Rathbone was a great man. Where is he now? alas! let the walls of Auburn Prison answer. These great men stand upon slippery places, especially so if they are without being good.

Who would be a great man without the important quality just mentioned? Give the reputation of the good and if the great can be with propriety added then it is truly well. I should not perhaps have indulged in the preceding digression from the object of my journal, were it not that I see I have some blank pages left, but I must leave them for the present. 7 o'clock. We are on the road whirling away at the rate of eight miles the hour towards Batavia where we take the cars. This short, or rather to me long night over and I shall be home. I have become so accustomed to being broke of rest that I really do not mind it, and tonight will not be uncomfortable. 9:30 o'clock. We are at Blodget's waiting for supper, having come twenty-six miles. I have a good appetite and lay in a good store for my night work. It struck me that I was looked at to-day at Buffalo as something curious. I know of nothing singular except that I had on my calico shirt when I arrived, and my face, hands and neck may be somewhat discolored by the sun. Perhaps I may judge how much it is changed by comparing myself with my portrait. Sunday, 29th, 11 o'clock a. m.--We are at Batavia. I have slept over the last twelve miles, and in two hours and a half shall be at R. As I shall have to opportunity to write more, I must bring my journal to a close or else leave the f-i-n-i-s until I get fairly home.

Back

Copyright © Christine Walters All Rights Reserved