Readers will find in the document that follows not only an intensely interesting and well-written narrative of one hundred and ten years ago, but also a real contribution to the economical and social history of the times when it was written. Acknowledgements are here made to later members of the Bedford family and friends for the use of manuscript and for valuable data of personal history concerning the writer of the journal.
In description of the manuscript book it should be said that it was made no doubt by the author, and consists of sixty-two unruled sheets of durable paper, doubled and stitched so as to make a volume of one hundred and twenty-four pages, the sheets being cut six and a half by sixteen inches in size.
Pages 1‑4 were left blank, page 5 records the title, pages 6‑10 blank, pages 11‑13 introductory, page 14 blank, pages 15‑86 the journal, pages 87‑124 blank. The volume, though long without the protection of a cover, is well preserved, the writing is neat and fairly legible and is intact, with the exception of pages 7‑10 (blanks) torn out, pages 41‑44 of the journal torn out, doubtless purposely "expurgated," pages 99‑114 (blanks) torn out, likewise pages 117‑118.
The journal, or at least the preface or introduction, seems to have been written after making the journey; possibly the whole book in its present form was rewritten from notes and placed in permanent shape subsequent to the voyage. That the writer never dreamed it should appear before many readers is disclosed in the aversion to publicity set forth in the introduction.
There is an account of ascending the Cumberland River dated Dec. 14-Jan. 19, 1795‑6, by Andre Michaux, also of descent of the Ohio and Mississippi, by F. Cuming, just about a year later than Bedford's, viz., May‑June, 1808 (supplementing his tour from Bayou Pierre to New Orleans by a narrative of an anonymous writer).
A still later tour of this same period from St. Louis to New Orleans was made December, 1810, by John Bradbury. Reprints of all three of these narratives are found in the Early Western Travel Series, edited by R. G. Thwaites, viz.: Vols. III, IV and V.a
Dr. John R. Bedford was the son of Captain Thomas Bedford, a Revolutionary officer of the Virginia line, and his wife, Ann Robertson. He was born in Mecklenburg County, Virginia, January 18, 1782. His parents in 1795 emigrated from Virginia, coming to Tennessee, making settlement on a plantation near the village of Old Jefferson, in Rutherford County, a very refined and cultured community, so influential in after years as to receive votes for the location of the state capital. John R. Bedford making good use of the opportunities of the day, prepared himself for the vocation of medicine, and accordingly entered upon his profession in the neighborhood of his father's plantation. An influential family in this same community was that of General Coffee, and by friendship and marriage relations the Coffees and Bedfords were ever afterward closely associated.
Mr. Thomas Bedford, the father, died about 1804 and it devolved on his son, Dr. Bedford, to administer on his large estate.1 About this time a local interest was started at Jefferson in the way of freighting the commerce of the community to New Orleans by way of Stones River and the Cumberland, which awakened an interest in the community for river travel, etc. It seems also that at this time members of the Bedford family were interested in the grocery and commission business at Nashville, including Dr. Bedford, with perhaps his brothers, William and Stephen. The following notice in the local Nashville paper indicates the preparation made for the trip to New Orleans, the relation of which is found in the subjoined narrative:
Messers Bedford & Co. having suspended business until the next season, earnestly requests the few, who are in arrears to be punctual in payment by the 1st of January, otherwise coercive measures must necessarily be adopted. In the occasional absence of J. R. Bedford, accompts will be left with Mr. George Poyzer, who is authority to settle and receive payment, and to whom we sold the stock of Groceries remaining on hand.2
It has been questioned as to whether it was Dr. J. R. Bedford or his brother William who was the author of the diary or journal, but when it is closely read with the number of allusions made to his special fellowship with and friendship for the physicians met, it discloses beyond a doubt that the writer was himself a physician or specially interested in the profession of medicine. Possibly he expected to add to his knowledge in this profession by his opportunities in New Orleans and the South.
In the Impartial Review, a paper published at Nashville, p42there appears in the issue of April 11, 1807, a letter "from a citizen of this place, dated New Orleans, March 27, 1807," that is most probably from his pen.
It is not known how long Dr. Bedford remained in the South — probably but a few months, as advertisements of stock sales, etc., on his plantation at Jefferson appear in a local paper of October 22, 1807,3 likewise announcement of his removal to Nashville for the practice of his profession. Dr. Felix Robertson, one of the oldest and most influential practitioners, had occasion to spend the winter in Philadelphia, so he offered his office and drug business to Dr. Bedford, viz. :
In a notice printed October 29, 1807,4 Dr. Robertson says:
He has obtained the kindness of Dr. J. R. Bedford of Rutherford County, to assume charge of his shop, who will be found ready to obey the calls of his friends with promptitude and fidelity.
Followed by the printed announcement:
J. R. Bedford occupies the shop of Doctor F. Robertson, and proposes to exercise in the practice of his profession. He therefore tenders his services as a physician, etc., to the citizens of Nashville and its vicinity. — As to any claim in public patronage, to which merit may entitle him; he awaits, free of apprehensions, the decision of experience.
The same paper, issue of April 28, 1808, announces:
Dr. Robertson informs his friends and the public that he has just returned from Philadelphia, and has again commenced business at his former shop in Nashville, etc.
In 1818 lands in Alabama Territory having been cleared as to Indian titles, etc., began to be sold at public sale by the United States Government, new counties were soon formed and many new towns laid out and lots sold. What is now Florence, Alabama, in Lauderdale County was the particular exploit of a land company headed by Gen. Coffee, Jas. Jackson and others. The following advertisement of the day tells the story of Cotton-Port, afterwards so well known as Florence,b the first settlement on or near the Tennessee River. Dr. Bedford was a member of this land company:
The Town of Cotton-Port.5 On the 16th day of March, 1818 (being the next Monday after the close of the Public Land Sales at Huntsville) will be offered for sale to the highest bidder on the premises; A part of the lots laid out for the new town of Cotton-Port.
The Town is laid out on the west bank of Limestone River; one mile above its junction with the Tennessee and a little below the south Beaver Dam and the Piney Fork.
p43 The situation is high and dry, promises to be as healthy as any other place in Alabama Territory, as near the Tennessee, is sufficiently level, and elevated above the reach of the highest floods of the Tennessee.
Within the limits of the Town are two never-failing springs of good water. The appearance of the Land and the success of similar experiments in the country adjacent, justify a belief that on almost every lot a well of good water may be had at a moderate depth without blowing rock.
Limestone River from the Tennessee to this place is navigable by the largest Keel and flat Bottom'd boats used in the Navigation of the Tennessee. Limestone here affords a safe harbor of deep still water, in which the greatest floods, boats will be entirely free from the dangers to which at such times apprehended from the strong and rapid current and sudden risings and fallings of the Tennessee.
The situation at which Cotton-Port is laid out, has in fact long since been proved by the observation and of the planters of the western and north-western parts of Madison county, to be the place which Nature has distinctly marked out for the commercial centre of the very fertile country adjacent. It includes the well-known old boat landing Limestone. At this place for several years past, not an inconsiderable part of the cotton from these parts of Madison county, has been embarked in flat bottom'd boats, which ascended with ease from the Tennessee and with full cargoes descended from this place to New Orleans. The saving in the expense of Land carriage, altho' the country for more than 15 miles around the boat landing was then unsettled and the Indian claim to it unextinguished, caused the produce of this quarter of Madison county to be embarked at this place in preference to any other. The same reason must naturally render Cotton-Port the place of embarkation for all the produce of the country north of it, as far as the southern boundary of the state of Tennessee, & for a considerable distance to the West and to the East.
The country whose trade seems decreed by Nature to centre here, includes one of the finest cotton districts North of Tennessee river. Of its fertility and probable wealth and produce something like definite ideas may be formed, when it is known that at the Public Sales now going on at Huntsville, the lands in the Township in which Cotton-Port has been laid out, and the next to the North, sold at from 2 to 70 dollars per acre and at an average of 16 dollars per acre. In the two next townships to the east and north-east at about the same prices.
The 2 nearest townships to the W. and N. W. of Cotton-Port are to be sold during the present week. The greater part of the Land in these is not less fertile and inviting to wealthy and industrious settlers.
To people at a distance who may not have enquired into the system pursued in surveying and selling Public Lands of the United States, it may be proper to observe, that a township is six miles square, in each of which after the reservation for Schools there are 22,400 acres to be sold in quarter sections of 160 each — of rich and high priced Lands just mentioned the most remote is but twelve miles from Cotton-Port.
Men of Industry, Enterprise & Judgement in almost every walk of life, who seek to better their condition, in a new and unoccupied field of action, will not be slow in forming their conclusions if they can rely upon these statements. Let them examine the records of the Land office and see if they are correct, let them examine the account of sales and calculate what must in all probability be the produce of p44a district in one half of which, capital to so large amount has been vested by prudent men in the purchase of Lands at the Public sales of government, let them examine a Map of the country and ascertain the point at which the commerce of this district must centre.
To the merchant it must occur that for the exportation of the produce of such a country there must be buyers at the point where it will be collected — that to supply such a country in foreign articles of consumption there must be sellers at the place to which consumers come to sell their produce.
Trade cannot stagnate here. Industrious and ingenious mechanics must see that the inhabitants of such a country will want houses, furniture, farming utensils, leather, saddles, boots, shoes, &c. and will be able to pay good prices for them. The upper country on the Tennessee and Holston rivers and their branches will afford, at a very trifling expense for water carriage down the river, abundant supplies of provisions, iron, lumber and other raw materials.
A good dry road can be had from Cotton-Port, north to Elk river. The proprietors of the land laid out for the town intend to build a bridge across Limestone; and to make a good road for several miles towards the rich country about the Big Prairie.
From Cotton-Port to Falls of the Black Warrior, as good a road can probably be had as from any place on Tennessee river. The distance is about 100 miles.
The trustees of the town will reserve for public profit, two lots including the two springs, two or more lots for a place of public worship, a school house, and such other public buildings as the prospects of the place may seem to require.
In the plan of the town the Trustees have endeavored to avoid everything which will tend to bring all its population and business into one span, and leave the rest of the lots unoccupied. They have endeavored so to arrange the streets, lots, etc., as to secure to the future inhabitants as far as practicable the benefits of shade and free circulation of air, and to every family a piece of garden ground.
A plan of the town and a map of the adjacent country, will be left for public inspection at John H. Smith's store in Nashville, and a plan of the town with Brice M. Garner, Fayetteville, T. and with John Brahan in Huntsville as soon as they can be prepared.
The sale will commence precisely at 12 o'clock. The trustees are induced to commence the sale at so short a notice, in order to meet the wishes of many now waiting and anxious to commence improvements in the town immediately. If the demand for lots requires it, the sale will be continued from day to day.
Terms eight months credit.
Bond and approved security to be given.
John Coffee, James Jackson, John Brahan, Jas Bright. — Trustees.
In addition to the town exploit large investments were made by these parties in farming lands, much of it purchased directly from the hands of its original occupants, the Indians. On a beautiful site •three miles from the town of Florence, on lands bought of the Indian Chief Doublehead, he built his family home and thus became the first resident physician of this new settlement, his family joining him there in April, 1818. In connection with Gen. Coffee and others he was instrumental in the organization of the Marion Land Company, among whose stockholders were a number of men of national p45note, including a president of the United States. On account of impaired health, it became necessary for Dr. Bedford to spend his winters in the South, commonly at New Orleans.
Here he made investments in banking and commission business, the firm bearing the names of Bedford, Breedlove & Robertson and Bedford & Mackey. On his return from the South, in 1827, having reached Athens, Ala., he suddenly expired, March 24, his remains being brought to his plantation, "Mt. Hope," and there interred.
Thomas Eastin, editor of the Examiner, published at Nashville, said of Dr. Bedford:
He was a man of much philosophical research, and of a refined and scientific mind, and although somewhat skeptical in his opinions on points not clearly demonstrable, was much to be relied on for the keeness of his mental perceptions and the liberal exercises of his views.6
It is well to note the setting of this narrative in the history of this period in the southwestern country. The absorbing issue of the day was Col. Aaron Burr and his expedition to the Southwest. The crisis of his exploit was reached at Natchez almost on the same date that commences this journal. While little data is furnished in the journal for romantic surmises or exercise of the imagination, yet it is appealing strange that two bright young physicians lately located in Nashville should choose the rough weather of winter and the rougher method of transportation, to follow Col. Burr's expedition so closely to the Southwest just at this time. After all, however, perhaps the trying river voyage, accompanied, as we shall see, with many dangers and much physical suffering, was little less than was promised by the horseback journey over the Natchez Trail, characterized as it was in those years by daily robbery, and often murder.
Nashville had gotten itself no little in the limelight of the public in the few weeks that preceed the opening of this journal by its reception to Colonel Burr. The following appears in conspicuous print in a local newspaper of the town:
Col. Aaron Burr the steady and firm friend, of the State of Tennessee, arrived in this place on Friday the 28th inst. (Sept. 1806) and on the next day a dinner was given him at Talbott's Hotel at which were convened many of the most respectable citizens of Nashville and its vicinity. There appeared an union of sentiment on this occasion. Many appropriate toasts were drank, and a few of the most suitable songs given, when the company retired quite gratified.7
After taking certain ones into his confidence as to plans of future operation, arrangements were made for the purchasing of supplies and their transportation down the river to join other portions of the flotilla when the date of embarkation should be definitely known. The same local newspaper later notes:
Col. Burr left this place on Monday last (Oct. 6th) for Kentucky.8
A writer who has presented some features of this period in an earlier number of this magazine says:
Leaving Nashville for the more immediate scene of his preparations, Col. Burr sent back to Jackson $3,500 to be expended for him in boats and provisions. Later an additional $500 was despatched to Nashville. He left the impression behind him that his enterprise contemplated a settlement on the lands recently acquired upon the Washita, and in the event of a war with Spain, a warlike expedition into Mexico.9
On his arrival at Lexington, Kentucky, Col. Burr found his political enemies busy at work to discount the sincerity of his expedition before the bar of public opinion. Affidavit was made before the federal judge seeking to have his plans looked into. Later a jury at Frankfort gave investigation to the charges but exonerated him, whereupon he again received high social recognition by his friends and was equally cried down by his Federalist enemies.
A short later he again returns to Nashville. Note:
Col. Burr arrived in town on Wednesday last (Dec. 17th). It is said he intends proceeding in a few days to Natchez.10
Col. Burr embarked from this place for New Orleans on Monday last (Dec. 22nd) with two large flat boats, which did not appear to be loaded.11
After President Jefferson issued his proclamation against Col. Burr his popularity necessarily somewhat waned in Nashville. Many of his intimate followers, and largely the populace, turned against him. So great was the change of sentiment as that it culminated in a scene described in the following:
Last night (Dec. 30th) at the hour of nine, commenced burning the effigy of Col. Aaron Burr, by the citizens of this town. This proceeding is justified by the ardent emotions of Patriotism felt by the people, and excited from a deep conviction that the said Burr is a TRAITOR. This conviction is produced from the conduct of Col. Burr himself in these Western states, and even in this town — the Proclamation of the President — his Message to both houses of Congress, p47and the Statement of Gen. Eaton. And we have the utmost confidence in assuring our Atlantic brethren that the idea of a separation is spurned with indignation and horror. That our lives and our property are pledged to support the General Government of the United States, as the safeguard to our own personal security, and as the only asylum for oppressed humanity.12
Embarrassment was faced, of course, by Gen. Jackson and public sentiment caused him to summon the military to preparedness and secret couriers were sent to and fro for information. One, John Murrell, was despatched in the first days of January to the mouth of Cumberland River and beyond to Fort Massac. He reported:
I arrived at Centerville on the 4th inst. Jan. 1807. Heard a report that Col. Burr had gone down the river with 1,000 men. I arrived at the mouth of the Cumberland that evening, and made inquiry concerning Col. Burr, and was informed that he left that place on the 28th of Dec. with ten boats of different description and sixty men aboard. I left there on the 5th, and arrived at Fort Massac the same evening, delivered your letter to Captain Bissell and received his answer, made some inquiry of him and was informed that Col. Burr left that place on the 30th of Dec. . . . there are about fifty men stationed at the mouth of Cumberland under the command of Col. Ramsey.13
Reply of Captain Bissell to Gen. A. Jackson.
Ft. Massac, Jan. 5, 1807.
On or about the 31st ult. Col. Burr passed here, with about ten boats, of different description, navigated with about six men each, having nothing on board that would suffer a conjecture, more than a man bound to market. . . ."14
In the meantime the doughty Colonel proceeded on his way with many wild and exaggerated reports preceding him. The postmaster at Natchez gave out that he had received positive information from the postmaster at Nashville that two thousand of Burr's recruits were on the river. The sequel is told in the following:
"1807. Early in January . . . . Colonel Burr with nine boats arrived at the mouth of Bayou Pierre, and tied up on the western or Louisiana shore. He crossed over to the residence of Judge Bruin (whom he had known in the Revolutionary War) and there learned for the first time that the Territorial authorities would oppose his descent, though his landing on the Louisiana side would seem to indicate that he apprehended some opposition.15
Col. Burr submitted to arrest on the 16th, gave bond for appearance before the Superior Court on February 2. His escape to the Mobile River country and later arrest close his history in the South.
The following memorandums or Notes were written for two reasons only: viz.:
1st. To banish ennui and keep at bay the "taedium vitae" of idleness, either of the body or mind. The scene on this tour is ever regular and almost invariable. The banks of the Mississippi seem to be of the same height from the mouth of the Ohio to N. Orleans a few places excepted, perfectly level, and covered with the willow & cotton wood — and sometimes decorated with verdure of the cane, which occasionally catch the eye and engage it for 1, 2 or more miles.
The meandering of the channel, is nearly as regular and invariable. It is round one large bend on the right, pass a point, into another large bend on the left — turn this point, into another large bend — and thus we are continually passing bends and points — all exhibiting such little differences to the view, that they would barely be observed by any, but the lanscape painter, & then, merely for the punctilious accuracy of representation, — if indeed, any part of the Mississippi merited representation. Under every point, — which is the end of a bend, — is either the beginning of an island, a sand-bar, or flat willow beach. — A large island in the middle of the river covered with large, lofty cotton wood, sometimes catch and interest the attention. — Therefore little interesting enjoyment is supplied to any of the faculties of the mind. — Such is the uniformity of scenery on the uninhabited banks of the Mississippi that fancy and observation are enlivened only at the commencement of the voyage. — Interesting novelty soon wears away, and insipid uniformity soon succeeds. — The mind sinks into apathy, and there are distant intervals only, is aroused by the dread of danger or apprehension of difficulty.
2dly. They are written for my own personal amusement and satisfaction. The recollections of past scenes and transactions, in which we were intimately concerned, though attended with circumstances, that were difficult & unpleasant, never fails to interest & concern our own feelings. — But it is very improbable that others will be at all concerned, but those whose feelings, from intimacy, sympathize & vibrate with our own. — He, who expects a general concern for his private individual situation or circumstances betrays great ignorance of mankind and the secret springs that actuate them. — Little minds, big with the conceit of their own superiority and importance, imagine that every eye points to their persons with respect and every mind contemplates their every thought and action upon others who would not otherwise even turn to the right or left to notice their greatest exploit. — Hence proceeds arrogance & vain ostentation, — personal defects, that are so despicable in the eyes of the intelligent, and so cautiously shuned by the deserving & modest.
January 14th. Four or five days being busily spent in preparation for the voyage, went on board the Barge Mary16 with Doctr. Claiborne,17 a fellow voyager, accompanied with the friendly wishes of a few friends — a few friends — because we might be under a mistake to receive every compliment indiscriminately given us, as springing from pure fountains of candour and sincerity. — Inquiries into health, p49good wishes and other similar compliments, like most manual motions, acquire ease and fluency from mere custom and habit.
Between 1 and 2 o'clock P.M. weighed anchor and sailed, Capt. Duffy commander or Director of the voyage and 3 hands at oars — proceeded very pleasantly 14 miles — encamped on the North shore — weather cold.
In the text, I've color-coded the travel days to the corresponding segments in this map.
[and if you need it,
here's help in using the map,
15th Thursday — Proceeded without interruption 30 miles and unexpectedly grounded on the 1 Harpeth Shoals,18 2 or 3 miles above the mouth of Harpeth River, 3 o'clock P.M. With the aid of two other Boat's crew, endeavored to get again on float but without effect. — Passed over to North shore and encamped.
Saturday, 17th. From the low stage of water in the Cumberland were sensible of the impossibility of floating the Barge and cargo to the Ohio. — Anxious to proceed with the least delay, deliberated and resolved to load two Keel Boats19 which were at our command, send to Nashville for another and float the Barge down to the mouth of C–––––d, empty.
Doct. Claiborne returned for another Boat, I proceeded on to the Ohio with the two, loaded from the Barge, and Capt. Duffy remained in charge of the balance, to await the arrival of Doct. Claiborne from N.ville.
18th, 19th, 20th, 21st & 22nd. These days with the 17th were spent in the passage from the Harpeth Shoals to the mouth of Cumberland, — arrived 3 o'clock P.M. was advised of a large sand bar, of very difficult passage in low water at the entrance of the Cumld — into the Ohio. — Therefore passed •three miles below it, to Lower Smithland20 — lodged the load on the beach dismissed the boats and procured Cumberlandc being called Upper Smithland.21 — Lodged the load on the beach dismissed the boats and procured comfortable boarding at John McKay's, half mile above the landing. — McKay has been an p50inhabitant of this place 9 years — an adventurer with the famous Zacariah Cox,22 from the lower part of Georgia, — is a hospitable, industrious, honest man. — Nothing worth noting after leaving the Barge to this place, but the intense severity of the cold,23 — which on the 19th was almost imsupportable, occasioning a very thin skim of ice on the river the morning of the 20th, — which is very unusual, — not having happened for many years. — Passed 2 Clarksville24 on the right, 3 Palmyra25 on the left 12 miles below, 4 Dover26 on the same side, all of little importance or notoriety, only that they are county towns. — 5 Eddyville27 some distance lower on the North bank, is in the State of Kentucky, Livingston County,28 and remarkable only for Ship building which is carried on with some spirit, — 3 schooners being on the stocks of about 160 tons, one launched & nearly finished — the other two not in such forwardness, — also two Gun Boats for the U. States, under the superintendence of Matt. Lyon.29 — Two others were compleated at this place & forwarded on in November last.
p51 Friday, 23rd. Light Rains, — covered cotton on the beach with staves near at hand — washed and exchanged clothes. — After dinner set out for 6 Upper Smithland — mistook the way and would unavoidably have been bewildered, till, God knows when! but for McKay whom I accidentally met returning from a hunt — was persuing a small trail, that led from the Ohio towards the Cumberland river, above Upper Smithland — in which direction were no inhabitants for many miles. Returned home with McKay, glad at having so luckily escaped such a difficulty.
Saturday, 24th. Clear and cold. — After breakfast set out again for Upper Smithland, — which was •three miles above — arrived without embarrassment — was unknown to any of the inhabitants, but a Mr. Cribbs, — with whom I had a slight acquaintance — was destitute of a cent of money, having paid all in hand to the boatsmen for their services and required still more to comply with engagements with them, — not anticipating difficulties, set out from N‑ville with only 30 dollars — which was deemed sufficient for contingent expenses, that usually occur on similar voyages. — Among strangers without money and dunned for money justly due! ! my feelings are too painful to describe! Cribbs seeming inattentive and little disposed to render my situation pleasant, even as a stranger in the place, — my feelings certainly forbade presuming on his good offices. — Quite unexpectedly, but very luckily met with Robt. McConnell, now living in Centreville,30 Kentucky, — formerly in N‑ville — with whom I was acquainted when a lad. — He has ever been remarkable for his goodness, generosity and gentlemanly deportment. — Did not hesitate to disclose my situation and wants to him. — He had not money, but made arrangements with Woods & Hicks31 at Upper Smithland, for my accommodation. — Obtained from them money and articles necessary for the voyage of which we were already destitute, to the amt. of 75 dollars, for which gave a Bill on Mr. G. Poyzer, Mercht.32 Nashville. Returned to Mr. McKay's, — examined pork and cotton on the beach, — all safe.
Monday, 26th. Weather as yesterday. — Wrote Mr. George Poyzer, Parry W. Humphreys33 & Dr. James L. Armstrong. — Half after 3 o'clock P.M. while writing, Doct. Claiborne arrived with the welcome intelligence that the boats were in 12 miles and approaching, — all safe & well conditioned. — Closed my letters and returned with him to Upper Smithland — continued here this night in company with Mr. Kirkman34 & Murrell35 from N‑ville — Mr. Cobb of Eddyville & Mr. McNair36 of St. Louis. — No occurrence worth attention. — Upper Smithland is situated on the South bank of the Cumberland River — at its junction with the Ohio, — and 7 Lower Smithland on the South bank of the Ohio •three miles below. — The situation of these places, gives them superior commercial advantages, — which at present are enjoyed in a more limited degree by a Mr. Hamlin Hicks, the only Inn Keeper and Merchant of Upper Smithland, — indeed of both Smithlands. No establishment being at the lower.
The whole exportation, of Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, West Pennsylvania and the greater part of Indiana Territory now pass this place, — and events of a few years will very probably draw the importations to all these places, but West Pennsylvania, by this place. — These circumstances, with well regulated establishments founded on good capital, will certainly give Smithland great importance in the Western country. — Little doubt exists, but that Lower Smithland is far more eligible and advantageous than Upper Smithland, — and for evident reasons, viz.: the obstruction occasioned by the large Sand Bar and an Island which divided the current of Ohio immediately opposite the mouth Cumld. — The nearest current is impassable except in high water, — of course that on the opposite side of the Island is in far greater use. — Large crafts from N. Orleans bound above this place, seldom proceed further up, except in very high water, — Deposit & freight in smaller crafts. — Therefore in consequence of Upper Smithland being measurably blocked up by this Island and Sandbar, except in high water, equal establishments at Lower Smithland would have preference and become the place of more general deposit and resort. — It seems a providential regulation that one place shall not be endowed with every benefit or advantage, — wherefore this possesses p53such, only as results from its relative situation with the places above named by means of the Ohio & Cumberland Rivers. — The country around isº
The country around is greatly interspersed with marshes, ponds or lagoons, which render it unhealthy — much subject to fevers of different types — intermittents more generally. And it has not the advantage of a fertile soil or good water. But for these Smithland would be a very desirable situation in every respect. The settlements around will probably ever be of inferior respectability.
Tuesday, 27th. Morning cloudy, windy and cold. 9 o'clock A.M. Barge and boat in company hove in sight — arrived — all safe and well conditioned — continued on for lower Smithland — violent head wind detained till afternoon — then set out. Barge grounded on the sand-bar with five bales cotton and 16 or 20 barrels pork only — after two hours' labor worked her off — by a mis-step in haste fell overboard on the sand-bar — water waist deep. Arrived at lower Smithland — unloaded the boat and dismissed her — commenced reloading the barge.
Friday, 30th. Weather as yesterday — weighed anchor and set out with very alarming apprehensions of again grounding — Ohio still falling — proceeded 12 miles — 8 1 mile below the mouth of Tennessee — encamped on the south side of the Ohio. Had a light snow.
Saturday, 31st. Morning quite clear and not very cold. With difficult and tedious progress proceeded to 9 Fort Massac,37 only nine p54miles — strong head winds opposing progress. Boat examined by the sergeant. Delivered a letter of introduction in behalf of Doctor Claiborne and myself from General A. Jackson38 to Capt. Daniel Bissel,39 commander of the Fort. Was received with much politeness and accommodated with great hospitality — partook of an excellent dinner, and by the friendly invitation, perhaps solicitation, morº properly, of Capt. Bissel, after having taken leave, returned and tarryed all the night. Capt. Bissel is of tall straight, commanding stature — o genial deportment — converses with good sense, but not with ease and fluency — quick and considerably stammering — positive and confident, a circumstance not unusual with those long accustomed to military command — he is a native of N. England and has been an officer in the U. S. Army 16 or 18 years. Mrs. Bissel is amiable, genteel, polite and affable — possessing great female delicacy. Hair and eyes black and skin somewhat brown.
Fort Massac is situated on a considerable eminence on the north, p55or Indiana,40 side of the Ohio. It is the only eminence between Smithland and the mouth of the Ohio — has a very commanding and beautiful prospect of the Ohio above — extending at least 7 or 8 miles — all this distance the river is from three-quarters to a mile in width. Capt. Bissel has commanded here 3 or 4 years. The stockading is strong and well executed — within and round about the Barracks is covered with small pebble making handsome dry walks. Houses of logs neatly erected and pretty well finished — neat and comfortable. Without the Barracks round about at some distance are several smoky huts inhabited by miserable wretches who get subsistence some way or other, I cannot tell how — one or two Indian traders — this being a place of considerable trade with the Indians — Chickasaws and Cherokees,41 principally. This place has been inhabited many, many years — first by the French, when claiming all the country west of the Ohio — a fort was established by them about this time. They were attacked, the whole murdered and fortifications burnt by the Indians — whence the significant name — Fort Massac — or the massacred fort.42 The country round about not very fertile and much of it flat and marshy. It is not deemed healthy.
February 1st. Rose a little before the dawn of day — agreeable to the Capt's orders good fires were continued in our rooms the whole of the night — and breakfast ordered by sunrise, soon after rising — Doctor Claiborne yet in bed — Capt. Bissel entered, having been informed of our rising — breakfast was soon ready, Mrs. Bissel appeared and served breakfast. Exchanged ceremonies and civilities, went on board and started by an hour's sun, with great and alarming apprehensions of grounding or rather, or wrecking, on what is called the Little and Grand chain43 of rocks — proceeded six miles, saw three flat boats on ground and narrowly escaped grounding ourselves — were saved only by the sight of them, which warned us of danger and prompted us to sound. This apprized us of shallow water and we cast anchor — obtained aid from the boats on ground, ascended the stream above the large sand-bar on the north and passed on the north side of it, where there was abundance of water. Then, attempting to land, was grounded on shore — made exertions with the poles — these ineffectual, leaped into the water and with prizes forced her off. I could not hesitate being the first out, as exemplary for the others.
Wind continued raging, — deemed it unsafe to proceed and encamped. Night extremely cold and tempestuous — unsafe to bring the boat to shore, therefore anchored 20 yards off — passed and repassed in a canoe.
Monday, 2d. Wind continued violent without abatement till a half hour's sun. Set out and proceeded 4 miles just below what is p56called the 10 Little Chain of Rocks,º a place before viewed with such terror, and encamped on the north, or Indiana, shore — night very cold, but moderately calm.
Tuesday, 3d. Set out early and proceeded rapidly 36 miles to the mouth of Ohio, where we arrived at an hour's sun in the evening — passing Wilkinsonville44 and the 11 Grand Chain of Rocks, places so terrible and alarming by information before given us. Lodged at 12 the junction of the Ohio and Mississippi, in a comfortable house not quite completed and thence unoccupied. Fort Wilkinsonville was erected and occupied 6 or 7 years past — and is the place where the troops then stationed, first heard and received the extravagant, arrogant, and fantastical orders for cropping their hair.45 The order was obeyed by all but Col. Thomas Butler,46 who saw and was determined to resist the tyranny of the mandate attended with circumstances the most arbitrary. This exciting the violent animosity of Wilkinson, Col. Butler finally fell a sacrifice to his malicious persecution — not condemnation. Fort Wilkinsonville is now the abode a few Cherokee Indians only — inhabiting a few little huts — The fort and appendages wrecked and tumbled to ruins — the same fate probably will ere long attend its cognomen.47
Wednesday, 4th. Cloudy and cold — entered the Mississippi with the anticipation of a more pleasant and unembarrassing progress — considerable quantities of ice were floating — passed on smoothly and easily, fearless of any difficulty, but such as might be avoided with p57care and caution — passed the Iron and Chalk48 banks on the south, or Indian, side, about 16 miles below the mouth of the Ohio, 9 miles below which on the same side encamped on the sand beach immediately at the water's edge — the banks being too high and perpendicular to be ascended. The south boundary49 line of Kentucky and the north boundary line of Tennessee begins at the Iron banks and passes thence due east.
Thursday, 5th. Set out early with prospects of making New Madrid — passesº a flat boat lodged on the sand-bar of Second Island50 — spoke the master — was informed they had been grounded twenty days — boat belonging to C. Stump & Co.,51 of Nashville — was 6 or 7 feet above water which was then falling — proceeded without difficulty within five miles of New Madrid, when tempestuous wind forced to p58put in. It continued without abatement till night — encamped on the beach with prospects of setting out very early in the morning, by which time the wind might possibly abate.
Friday, 6th. Wind very high, without any sensible abatement, coming from the north, continued till the dusk of evening, too late to make any progress — moved our encampment on the bank above in the midst of very thick and lofty cane, which was a great protection from the cold north wind that yet continued with little abatement — cold almost insupportable52 — wind abated about 8 o'clock in the month — were therefore sure of proceeding in the morning.
Saturday, 7th. The intense severity of the weather yesterday and last night froze the water to an extraordinary degree — far beyond what is usual in this latitude, viz., 30°, 30′. The Mississippi was blocked up from bank to bank with thick and extensive flakes of floating ice — which rendered the river impassable by crafts of any kind, great or small. We had therefore no other prospects but to remain in statu quo this day out at least — how much longer could not be anticipated — but hope, ever accommodating to our will and wishes, pointed to the shortest probable time and flattered us with a departure tomorrow morning. Stuck close to the fire the whole of this day, moving to the river at intervals, with anxious looks on the ice, which seemed to come thicker and thicker, if possible.
Sunday, 8th. Weather and ice as yesterday — no prospects of departure this day — but surely tomorrow. This day spent as yesterday — moved camp about twenty or thirty yards for the greater convenience of getting wood — having consumed all adjacent to the other.
Monday, 9th. Weather moderated and the quantity of ice greatly diminished — but yet unsafe to proceed — have great hopes tomorrow. Much wearied with 4 days posture in a very narrow space which confined the view to a few paces and the weather becoming more mild set out on a short ramble with Doctor Claiborne — to give action to the body and a little life to the mind. For the greater safety we pursued the margin of the river, as a guide — rambled about 4 or 5 miles below oppositº New Madrid. Spoke a boat crew on the opposite side — but the roaring of the ice confounded our voice — on the way about a mile below camp found our canoe that had broke away the day before. On the return to camp caught a wild goose — rejoiced at the prize — on examination, found it had a wound in the wing which disabled it from flying — it was in consequence very poor — but had before rudely killed it. Returned to camp after 4 or 5 hours absence, p59extremely fatigued with the excursion — ventured out from the river and was somewhat bewildered — hastily sought the margin of the river and stuck close to the beach the balance of the way home.
Tuesday, 10th. Cut through the ice that blocked us up, about forty feet and set out, under great dread and alarm at the floating ice that yt continued pretty thick — floated only 3 miles and, alas! stuck fast on a large sand-bar 2 1‑2 miles above 13 New Madrid. The bar extended obliquely up the river nearly to the north shore. It was intersected by 4 or 5 channels of water thereby making small islands of sand — which, being covered with ice to the height of 4 or 5 feet, exhibited a singular view. At a distant view we were apprehensive that they might be collections of sawyers and drift wood on which had lodged these vast quantities of ice and therefore thought it safest to pursue the broadest channel — but, by the by, was the shallowest and we run hard on ground about 2 o'clock P.M. Neglecting to secure our canoe when found, no means were left us to gain the shore. Slept on boat above deck without a shelter. In the night came a cold rain, to which were every how exposed — were wet under and above.
Wednesday, 11th. Still raining — rose from our lodging, having a buffalo rug and blankets under the two blankets above, wet, cold, and heavy hearts and sad fears, not knowing when relief could be obtained. Our lungs were sore and overstrained by hallooing and blowing the trumpet the night before, but without any benefit. New Madrid being in view we had hopes of aid from there — but now despaired. In this state of extremity a plan was devised and adopted, which gave some hope of reaching land — viz., a raft of 4 or 5 cotton bales, sufficient to bear two adventurers who were to be determined by lottery — and were to procure aid from Madrid after landing. One of the crew, eccentric and fanciful, proposed to saw off the legs of a 3 by 4 table that was on board, set that on float and he alone would be the adventurer on board for the shore and the messenger of our unpleasant condition and forlorn situation. Having no need then of a messenger to the world of spirits, this rash and visionary scheme was ridiculed and rejected.
At 9 o'clock P.M., just at the moment when about to begin the raft of cotton bales, descried two persons through the misty rain, who seemed approaching toward us — whether on the sand beach or in a canoe we could not determine — or whether they were directing towards us could not be positively ascertained — but hope persuaded us they were, and for our relief. On nearer approach it was ascertained that they were in a canoe and directing towards us — after some interval they arrived — all elated with joy, saluted them with overflowing cordiality and gratitude — as our deliverers from this deplorable dilemma — in which we must either have perished by cold, wet and hunger or submitted to a very perilous hazard on an unmanageable raft of cotton bales in a very rapid current, perhaps more expressively, riffle. Immediately after their arrival, having no time to lose, Capt. Duffy passed over to the south bank for the canoe, which Doctor Claiborne and I had found lodged on the bank while on the excursion to opposite New Madrid from our cane camp — perhaps from the circumstances, more properly our icy or frozen camp. The hands were transported to the north shore with the cooking utensils and bed clothes to warm, dry and cook. Doctor Claiborne and I passed on the canoe with the two Frenchmen, who relieved us, to New Madrid. Dirty, wet and p60shivering with cold, we entered the town — enquired for Mr. Jos. Humphreys,53 an acquaintance and friend — was advised of his lodgings at a Monsieur DeOlive's, and pursued the street hither. As we passed, the door of every house in sight was crowded by their inmates gaping and staring at us with unmannerly, vulgar curiosity — we were uncertain whether our condition, which could not be made worse by drawing through a dirty puddle, was so ludicrous as to excite their unmannerly risibility or whether their curiosity was of that kind which is common to the rude, impertinent and vulgar of all nations and country — a little more observation of their general manners and appearance, justified the latter conjecture. In sight of these gaping, unmannerly loungers we passed and arrived at Monsieur DeOlive's. Saw Mr. Humphreys — after an interchange of mutual civilities and enquiries, scrubbed off some of the dirt that abounded on our skin and exchanged our dirty, wet clothes for more cleanly. Then some plan to get the barge afloat was to be devised. The Frenchmen, to whom we at first attributed great benevolence and disinterested humanity, had already intimated a proposition to relieve the barge, by job, which, and other expressions, betrayed low motives and convinced us they were not as pure and benevolent as at first very willingly believed. They were exclusively mercenary — for we might have floated on our cotton bales — been drowned — if he had not expected to surprise us into a good fee for executing the job — exaggerated the difficulties and increased our alarms, until he secured a promise of 50 dollars for the safe delivery of the barge and cargo at Madrid as speedily as practicable. We were afterwards informed that this is a kind of profitable business with him — he is a masterly swindler, and, of course, destitute of common honesty. Our suspense and anxiety were now much diminished — returned to the society of our friend Humphreys, who, being clerk of the district, had intercourse with a variety of persons — were introduced to the most respectable and worthy. It cannot be therefore presumed we made many new acquaintances. Monsieur DeOlive is a decent, polite Frenchman — a native of Paris. He is a justice of the peace and by occupation a baker and inn-keeper — possesses great moral rectitude. His wife, also a native of Paris, is decent and civil — attentive to the duties of her station. Had a comfortable lodging this night — far more so than the previous night on board above deck.
Thursday, 12th. Rose early — saw the Frenchman set out for the barge — returned — passed our time more contentedly with our friend Humphreys, Olive and family, and some others, new acquaintances — among whom were a Doctor Dorsey, notable for his long time residence here only — about 14 or 16 years — a native of Maryland, — p61and a Mr. S. F. Bond,54 judge of the district of Cape Gerrado,55 then on a voyage to New Orleans. He is a singular character, and somewhat eccentric — but polite, affable, sensible and interesting — views considerably enlarged and extended by travels to various parts of the globe — to South America, many parts of Europe and most of the United States — discovered much observation and reflection — possesses notion of the nature of mankind, and their moral relations, etc., etc. — spoke the French language with ease and fluency from his general good sense, presumed he spoke it correctly — among the French his manners and gestures indicated him to be a Frenchman by birth and education — but is a native of Maryland — of or near Baltimore. 12 o'clock, we walk with Mr. Humphreys to Doctor Waters,56 1 1‑2 miles from Olive's, — were introduced to the Doctor and lady and received with a distant politeness — sat about half an hour, when the object of our visit was made known to him aside by Humphreys. It was to borrow money of him to make good the engagements before entered into with the Frenchman and to obtain some other little necessary supplies — for we were —
(Here two whole pages are missing and a small portion of a third.)
Friday, 13th. Weather cloudy, but not very cold. The barge and cargo arrived at Madrid last night — Capt. Duffy and the hands engaged in reloading. We walked to Doctor Waters to breakfast and to make the necessary arrangements with him — were satisfied of our misconception yesterday, as to his disposition and intentions towards us — were received politely and very hospitably — had an excellent breakfast — had our engagements with the Frenchman adjusted — were furnished the little necessary — (four or five lines torn out.) — preparations — too a farewell of Olive and family — received their friendly wishes and passed down to Doctor Waters — were entertained with much attention and great hospitality — by him and his lady.
New Madrid is situated on the north bank of the Mississippi •about sixty miles below the mouth of the Ohio — contains sixty or seventy families — the greater number of whom are French — more properly Creole, with few exceptions — number Americans — some Dutch. They are mostly abject and degenerated wretches — many of the Americans are respectable and but few of the French. The houses are generally miserable looking tenements — many are built in French style, with piazzas extending round the whole house, which is but one story in p62height. This description includes the best houses — most of the houses look old and upon the verge of tumbling to ruins — Madrid is situated on a perfect plane. The river makes annual encroachments on the town and in the course of time threatens to subvert its whole foundation. The neighborhood is said to be of good fertile land, very favorable to the growth of cotton — is inhabited most entirely by industrious Americans.57
Saturday, 14th. Breakfasted with Doctor Waters — embarked and passed on well 10 miles came up with Bond, who embarked the preceeding day for New Orleans — passed him 4 or 5 miles and again grounded. Oh! what perplexity! Two hours' laborious struggle luckily set us once more on float — proceeded 10 miles further and encamped on the Louisiana shore — the night stormy and tempestuous — my hat was blown overboard and not recovered.
Sunday, 15th. Wind subsided at an hour's sun this morning — moved on without impediment 30 miles — encamped on the L. shore — at a late Indian camp, where was quite a comfortable shelter. At sunset hove in sight a barge under sail — supposed to be from New Orleans — they encamped two miles below us.
Monday, 16th. The barge discovered last night passed us before sunrising — spoke her, but received no distinct reply. Immediately departd ourselves — proceeded not more than 100 yards — struck a large and stubborn sawyer,58 two or three feet below the surface of the water in a rapid current — stern wheeled with rapidity — barge tottered so much as to threaten an overthrow. Bow stuck fast — the lar-board p63side raised 1 1‑2 feet — gave signal of distress to the barge crew just passed, and ask for aid — inhuman monsters! — continued on as if they neither saw nor heard us. No practicable means were untried to loosen her — but all without effect. The sadness and gloom on every countenance indicated despondence at ever reaching New Orleans — for it seemed as if our impediments were never to cease. The slow rising of the water, discovered not till after the misfortune, alone gave hope — but calculated under the most favorable events, to camp another night at this place. Therefore some of the crew had passed over to the shore, to raise fire, etc., and the canoe was returning for the others — just at this moment, as if providence interposed, the barge moved, at first imperceptibly — afterwards was discovered certainly on float. There were luckily on board — the Capt., a hand and I — who safely directed her to shore amidst very dangerous sawyers on every side. All things again on board, departed at half after two o'clock — proceeded ten miles — encamped on the Louisiana shore. Slept comfortably till 12 o'clock — rain came on — stretched tent and slept pretty well the ballance of the night though little wet — bed clothes more so.
Tuesday, 17th. Morning rainy — river rising slowly — proceeded 12 or 14 miles, were forced to put in by cold rain and wind, which was heavy — the balance of the day and the whole of the night very rainy — blankets wet — impossible to dry them or ourselves — of course, night very uncomfortable — snow ensued in the latter part of the night.
Wednesday, 18th. Set out at eight o'clock after breakfast — wind very high — proceed with great apprehension of grounding — the river being very wide, much interspersd by large, extensive sand-bars and islands — consequently, divided into separate channels — passed 20 miles — safely, nearly through the whole — but at last, in spite of all our vigilence, grounded at 1 o'clock P.M. — our exertions to set her floating were fruitless. Oh! what perplexity and embarrassment! are we to stick and ground every 2 or 3 days? Some fatality seems directed to us particularly, which, after torturing and perplexing us almost out of life, will sink and drown us! Sorely lamented ever attempting the voyage — with these are a thousand other reflections, more painful, if possible — cast anchor, trained the barge up with the current and passed over to the S. shore to encamp — how long, could not be foreseen or anticipated — perhaps never to proceed further. Being restless and not disposed to sleep, I rose 10 o'clock P.M. and discover the barge to have moved 30 or 40 yards — hallooed with great gratification, observed more particularly and anxiously, and saw her floating slowly. anchor being out, retarded her progress and retained her in a right position — with great joy roused the hands — indeed, all were up and much gladdened at the fortunate event. The Capt. and two hands hastened in the canoe on board and towed her safely to land. Slept the ballance of the night more pleasantly.
* [The introductory matter and foot-notes are by the Editor.]
1 Haywood, Tenn. Reports, Vol. V, p155.
2 Impartial Review, Dec. 12, 1806.
5 Documentary History of Industrial Society, Phillips, Vol. II, p263.
6 "It Happened in Nashville," W. E. Beard, p11.
7 Impartial Review, Oct. 4, 1806.
9 "Col. Burr's First Brush With the Law," W. E. Beard, Tennessee Hist. Mag., Vol. I (1915), p8.
10 Impartial Review, Dec. 20, 1806.
11 Ibid., Dec. 27, 1806.
12 Ibid., Jan. 3, 1807.
13 Impartial Review, Jan. 10, 1807.
14 Ibid., Jan. 10, 1807.
15 "Mississippi — Province, Territory and State," J. F. Claiborne (1880), p278.
18º Between the mouths of Sycamore Creek on the north and Harpeth River on the south, the Cumberland River is interrupted by a rough reef of limestone rocks that were for long years a great danger to boating, especially in low water. This has been overcome in later years by the erecting of Lock "A" which has raised the water permanently above the reefs so that they are no longer visible. The steamboat General Jackson was wrecked her by running upon a snag in 1821. "Hist. of Nashville," Crew, p307.)
20 "This town contains only ten or a dozen houses and cabins, including two stores, two taverns and a billiard table. There appear to be only about 30 acres of land, badly cleared and worse cultivated, around it, though the soil seems very good, but as it is as yet considered as a temporary landing to boats bound up and down the Cumberland River, the inhabitants depend on what they can make by their intercourse with them, and are not to cultivate more land than will suffice to give them maize enough for themselves and their horses. They live chiefly on bacon, which comes down the two rivers, and corn, being too indolent to butcher and to fish, though they might raise any quantity of stock, and doubtless both the Ohio and Cumberland abound in fish. the whole it is a miserable place, and a traveler will scarcely think himself repaid by a sight of the Cumberland, for stopping at Smithland. There is an old Indian burying ground at the upper end of the town, where we found several human bones enclosed in their flattish stone tombs close to the surface. Cumberland River mixes its clear blue stream with the muddy Ohio at an embouchure of about three hundred yards wide."
22 Concerning Zacariah Cox, the Settlement of the Big Bend of Tennessee River, the Yazoo Land Company, etc., see "Annals of Tennessee," J. G. Ramsey, p549‑551; "History of Georgia," Stevens, Vol. II, p457‑496.
24 Established in 1785 by Martin Armstrong, being the second town established in Middle Tennessee — Nashville being the first in 1784. It is located on the northern bank of Cumberland River just above the mouth of Red River. Was named in honor of Gen. George Rogers Clark, no doubt, through the influence of Col. John Montgomery, one of Gen. Clark's commanders in his expedition against the French of the Illinois, who was one of the first settlers there. When the State of Tennessee was erected, the County of Tennessee gave up its name to the State and took the name of "Montgomery" in honor of Col. John Montgomery, who had met death at the hands of the Indians. The U. S. Gazateer,º of 1795 says: "It contains about thirty dwellings, a court house and a jail."
(Hon. A. V. Goodpasture, in Amer. Hist. Mag., Vol. VIII, p197‑199.)
25 The first settlement made in Montgomery County on the south side of the Cumberland River. It is located at the mouth of Deason's Creek, and the settlement was made under the auspices of Dr. Morgan Brown, being erected by legislative enactment in 1796. It was the first port of entry opened west of the mountains. In 1802 Dr. Brown built in this neighborhood the first iron works in Montgomery County, also kept a general store and run a water mill. He removed to Kentucky in 1808.
(Amer. Hist. Mag., Vol. VIII, p200.)
26 The neighborhood of which the town of Dover is the center was settled as early as 1795, by George Petty, Joseph Smith, Larry Satterfield and others, their homes being located at the foot of the Cumberland Hills on Lick Creek. The county of Stewart was formed in 1803, when commissioners were appointed to locate the county seat, it being specified that its name should be "Monroe." In the fall of 1805 the site of the new town was settled upon, thirty acres being bought of Robert Nelson. The name of Dover, however, was given to it instead of that designated in the act of the Legislature. The courthouse built was of logs, two rooms and one story high, costing about $600. In 1806 George Petty was issued a license to keep an "Ordinary" (tavern).
("History of Tennessee," Goodspeed, p897.)
27 The site of Eddyville was visited by the French traveler, Michaux, in 1795. He makes mention of the locality in his Journal, under date of December 22, says:
"Rowed about seven leagues, and slept at the Great Eddy, which is considered to be at a distance of forty-five miles from the mouth (of the Cumberland)."
("Western Travels," Thwaites, Vol. III, p81.)
The town was founded by Col. Matthew Lyon, and was given its name because of its location between the two large eddies in the river at that point, one being just below and the other two miles above the site of the town. As noted in the journal, this place was famed for its boat-building industry. The Nashville Impartial Review has this notice in the issue of March 21, 1807:
"The brig Melinda was launched at Eddyville on Friday (28 ult.) and will set sail in a few days for New Orleans. She is a handsome vessel of 150 tons, the property of Messrs. Bullock and Ficklin, of this town." (Copied from a paper published at Russellville, Ky.)
28 Established in 1798 out of part of Christian County, Ky., and named in honor of Robert R. Livingston, of New York.
30 This place was in Livingstone County, Ky. The name no longer is in use. Perhaps was changed. "Eddyville was made the seat of justice of Caldwell when that county was established in 1809. It was removed to Centerville, returned to Eddyville, but again removed and fixed permanently at Princeton."
("School Hist. of Ky.," Collins, p491.) See page 47.
31 Both of these names stand high in the commercial and social history of Nashville. Joseph, Robert and James Woods' names appear in connection with nearly every commercial enterprise undertaken in the early days of merchant life of Nashville. Reared in central Kentucky, Joseph and Robert married sisters, daughters of the noted Kentucky inventor, Edward West, who it is claimed really invented the first steamboat, giving it a try-out at Lexington in 179—.
Another daughter of West became the wife of Moses Norvel, who came to Nashville in 1807, and a son, William Edward West, was the well-known artist and portrait-painter.
Whether the result of association with Mr. West, who was so interested in river navigation or for pure commercial reasons, we find the Woods brothers at an early date engaged in the river trade, having a noted commission house at Smithland. Later they moved to Nashville, where they continued for many years in the same business. —
"The early experience of these men as commission merchants on the river, in receiving and forwarding goods of various kinds, gave them great advantage over all others, and they were very successful in their business, and held the confidence of the entire community." So wrote the Hon. Willoughby Williams in his "Recollections of Nashville."
(Clayton's Hist. of Dav. Co., p199.)
32 George Poyzer came from Lexington, Ky., to Nashville. He was an Englishman by birth, and had lived at Lexington some years. His was the first cotton "factory" in Nashville, located on what is now 3rd Avenue, from Phillips & Buttorff Co. down to Church Street. He did not manufacture cloth, only thread. When offered for sale, his factory was described as follows:
In addition to the factory, he also conducted a store. Likewise his residence was in the same plat.
(Clayton's Hist. of Dav. Co., p198. Hist. of Nashville, p215. "Old Days in Nashville," Thomas, p23.)
33 Distinguished lawyer and jurist of Tennessee. Appointed an additional judge of the Superior Court in the fall of 1807, continued in office till the abolition of those courts, January 1st, 1810. The fall preceding he had been appointed one of the judges of the Circuit Courts. In April, 1813, was elected a member of Congress, thereupon resigning the office of judge.
(Clayton's Hist. of Dav. Co., p93.)
34 A prominent family in the history of Nashville.
36 First Governor of the State of Missouri. b. in Derby Township, Dauphin Co., Pa., in 1774. d. in St. Louis, March 18, 1826. Educated at Derby and the College of Philadelphia (U. of Pa.). In 1794 was a lieutenant in charge of a company from Dauphin Co. in the Whisky Rebellion of Western Pa. Went to Missouri Territory in 1804, settling at St. Louis, where he served for several years as U. S. Commissary. Was an officer in the War of 1812. Elected Governor of Missouri, holding office from the foundation of the State in 1820 to 1824, thereafter held an important office in the Indian Department.
(Appleton's Cyclo. of Amer. Biog.)
37 Some have thought that the site of Fort Massac was first occupied by the French when Juchereau established his trading station and tanneries on the "Ouabache" at the beginning of the eighteenth century. Others state that as early as 1711 the site was occupied by the French as a stockade fort for the protection of the Jesuit missionaries and the fur traders who were subject to marauding Cherokee Indians.
Pownall's map of 1751 shows the location of a fort or post here, and in 1757 Aubry, Governor of the Illinois country, erected a fort here on his way to reinforce the garrison at Fort Duquesne, giving it at first the name of Fort Ascension. On the approach of the English under General Forbes, in 1758, the commandant at Fort Duquesne evacuated the fort and destroyed it with fire, a portion of the forces went north to Canada, the other part descended the Ohio one thousand miles to Fort Ascension, where they strengthened it and left a garrison of one hundred men, changing its name in honor of the Marquis de Messiac, Minister of the Marine, to Fort Messiac, shortened in use to Massac. Later the English perpetuated a tradition of an Indian massacre at this point from which it is said the name Massac originated. When the French surrendered the country east of the Mississippi to the English in 1763 this fort was dismantled and evacuated. The English never rebuilt it, though it was afterwards appreciated by them that it was the key to the Northwest country, since it was from near this site that George Rogers Clark, having landed his company of soldiers, took his departure for the Illinois towns, resulting in the end of the English occupation of the country. When, in 1793‑1794, the French agent, Genet, was fomenting his scheme for capturing Louisiana and Florida from Spain by the help of filibusters from Tennessee and Kentucky, the site of old Fort Massac was designated as the place for the base of supplies, etc., but General St. Clair's proclamation of March 24, 1794, ordering General Wayne to fortify and restore the post, defeated their purpose and prevented the passing down the river of the expedition. A year later this same old fort began to figure in another similar project. This time it was the Spaniards, through their agent, Thomas Power, who attempted to separate the western states from the Union and ally them with Spain. No less personage than Gen. George Rogers Clark was associated with others in this venture, and amongst other designs provided for was the capture of Fort Massac, etc. Another picture of Fort Massac about this period is found in the "Sketches of a Tour to the Western country," F. , 1807‑8, published in Early Western Travels, Vol. IV, pp276‑277:
On fastening the boat a corporal from Fort Massak, just above the landing, came on board and took a memorandum of our destination, etc. We landed and, approaching the fort, we were met by Lieutenant Johnson, who very politely showed us the barracks and his own quarters within the fort, in front of which is a beautiful esplanade with a row of Lombardy poplars in front, from whence is a view upwards to Tennessee River, downwards about two miles and the opposite shore, which is about one mile and a quarter distance — the Ohio being now so wide. The fort is formed of pickets, and is a square, with a small bastion at each angle. The strong plain is cleared to an extent of •about sixty acres, to serve for exercising the garrison in military evolutions, and also to prevent surprise from the enemy. On the esplanade is a small brass howitzer and a brass caronade two-pounder, both mounted on field carriages, and a sentinel is always kept here on guard. The garrison consists of about fifty men. Some recruits were exercising. They were clean and tolerably well clothed, and were marched into the barracks yard preceded by twoº good drums and as many fifes. The house of Captain Bissel, the commandant, is without the pickets."
Fort Massac continued to be used by the government as a military post until the close of the War of 1812‑15, and the remains that exist today are the remnants of this period. A modern traveler by boat down the Ohio in 1894 gives the following present-day picture of the site:
"No doubt the face of this rugged promontory of gravel has, within a century, suffered much from floods, but the remains of the earthwork on the crest of the cliff, some fifty feet above the present river stage, are still easily traceable throughout. The fort was about forty yards square, with a bastion at each corner. There are the remains of an unstoned well near the center; the ditch surrounding the earthwork is still some two and a half or three feet below the surrounding level, and the breastwork about two feet above the inner level; no doubt palisades once surrounded the work, and were relied upon as the chief protection from assault. The grounds, a pleasant grassy grove several acres in extent, are now enclosed by a rail fence and neatly maintained as a public park by the little city of Metropolis, which lies not far below. It was a commanding view of land and river which was enjoyed by the garrison at old Fort Massac. Up stream there is a straight stretch of eleven miles to the mouth of the Tennessee; both up and down the shore lines are under full survey, until they melt away in the distance. No enemy could well surprise the holders of this key to the lower Ohio." (On the Storied Ohio, Thwaites, pp285‑288.)
38 Andrew Jackson was elected major-general of the militia in the State of Tennessee in 1801 at the age of thirty-four. His principal opponent was Governor John Sevier. He was elected by a majority of one vote. (Brady's The True Andrew Jackson, p65.)
39 Daniel Bissel was appointed a cadet from Connecticut in September, 1791; became ensign in 1792; lieutenant in January, 1794; captain in 1799; lieutenant-colonel August 18, 1808; colonel August 15, 1812; brigadier-general, March 9, 1814. Commanded on the northern frontier in the War of 1812‑15; commanded at the affair at Lyon's Creek, October 19, 1814, in which he was successful. In May, 1815, he became colonel of the First Infantry, with the brevet of brigadier-general. On January 26, 1816, he was transferred to the Second Artillery. He resigned from the army in 1821; died at St. Louis, Mo., May 14th, 1833. Appleton's Cyclo. of Biog.)
40 In the year 1800 Congress divided the Northwest Territory and established out of that portion of it west of the present State of Ohio the Indiana Territory. In 1809 Indiana Territory was divided and that portion west of the Wabash River was erected into the Illinois Territory.
41 Fort Massac was the natural trading place of the French with the Cherokee and Chickasaw Indians. At an early date the French commenced to designate the Tennessee River by the name of "Cherokee River," since it had its sources in the region of their settlements and was used by them as the highway of intercourse with the nations of the west. Likewise it was equally convenient for the Chickasaws, as they were located in what is now northern Mississippi and western Tennessee. It remained a rendezvous for Indian trade after the English took possession of the country and remained such until the removal of the Indians west of the Mississippi.
43 Well-known localities to the boatmen, called by the French "La Petite Chaine" and "La Grande Chaine."
44 "(leaving Ft. Massac.) At •three miles passed a new settlement on the right where the river is two miles wide, with a very gentle current. The current carried us twelve miles and a half further, without our perceiving any signs of inhabitants on either shore. We then rowed into Cedar Bluffs or Wilkinsonville, where we found an eddy making a fine harbor, and an ascent up a low cliff by sixty-two steps of squared logs to a beautiful savannah or prairie of about one hundred acres, with well-frequented paths through and across it in every direction. We observed on it the ruins of the house of the commandant and the barracks which were occupied by a small United States garrison, until a few years ago, the buildings were destroyed by the Indians. Though our harbour here was a good one, yet we did not spend our night with perfect ease of mind, from the apprehension of an unwelcome visit from the original lords of this country, recent vestiges of whom we had seen in the prairie above us. May 22nd, at daybreak we gladly cast off, and at a mile below Wilkinsonville turned to the left into a long reach in a S. W. by S. direction, where, in nine miles, the river gradually narrows to half a mile, and the current is one-fourth stronger than above (Cuming's Tour, p278.)
Thayer's Note: An interesting page on Wilkinsonville at LewisAndClarkRoadTrips supplies the information we really want here.
45 In 1798 the first United States troops that came down the Mississippi were quartered at Fort Adams. General Wilkinson Colonel Hamtrack, Major Butler, Captain Guion and other officers became rather merry over their punch one night, and the General, by some accident, got his queue singed off. Next day he issued an order forbidding any officer appearing on parade with a queue. Major Butler refused to obey, and was put under arrest. He was soon after taken sick, and when the surgeon, Dr. Carmichael, informed him that he could not live, he made his will and gave directions for his burial, which, he knew, would be attended by the whole command. 'Bore a hole,' said he, 'through the bottom of my coffin, right under my head, and let my queue hang through it, that the d–––––––––––––d old rascal may see that, even when dead, I refuse to obey his orders.' These directions were literally complied with." (Mississippi as a Province, Territory and State, Claiborne, p362.)
46 Thomas Butler, soldier, born in Pennsylvania in 1754; died in New Orleans, La., September 7, 1805. While studying law in Philadelphia in 1776 he joined the army, soon obtained a company and was in almost every action in the middle states during the Revolution. At Brandywine, September 11, 1777, he received the thanks of Washington on the field for intrepidity in rallying a retreating detachment. At Monmouth he was thanked by Wayne for defending a defile in the face of a heavy fire. After the war he retired to a farm, but in 1791 was made a Major, and commanded a battalion at St. Clair's defeat, where he was twice wounded. He became Major of the 4th sub-legion April 11, 1792, Lieutenant-Colonel July 1, 1792, and, on reorganization of the army on a peace basis in June 1802, was retained as Colonel of the 2d infantry. In 1797 he was ordered by President Washington to expel settlers from Indian lands in Tennessee, and made several treaties with the Indians while in that country. (Appleton's Cyclo. of Biog.)
47 The career of General James Wilkinson is as remarkable as his character is despicable. His adroitness and power of inspiring confidence maintained him in his intrigues, and gave him the opportunity of playing a prominent part in the early western affairs. His share in the Revolution was indicative of the man, he being concerned in the Conway Cabal and other questionable movements. At the close of the war he migrated to Kentucky and engaged in mercantile business. His commercial connection with New Orleans furnished the opportunity for his intrigue with the Spaniards, whose paid agent he became, for attempting to dismember the Union. In this position he first embarked upon, and then betrayed the schemes of Aaron Burr. Not able entirely to clear himself of suspicion, Wilkinson was removed from his Western position at the outbreak of the War of 1812‑1815; and after a futile and mismanaged campaign against Montreal demanded an investigation by court-martial. This being inefficiently conducted, Wilkinson was acquitted, but he soon (1815) retired to extensive estates which he had acquired near the City of Mexico, where he died ten years later." (Note by R. G. Thwaites, to Cuming's Tour, Early West. Travels, Vol. IV, p245.)º
48 On the old French maps this is denominated "Mine de Fer," and mention is made of it in the voyage of Marquette and Joliet in 1673, in 1700, Gravier in 1702, Charlevoix in 1720, etc. Cuming, the contemporary of our traveler, in his tour of 1808 says:
"At fifteen miles from the Ohio . . . Five miles lower down we passed the Iron Banks on the left. These are very remarkable, being a red cliff near the top of a high ridge of hills about a mile long, where the river is narrowed to little more than a quarter of a mile wide. From the Iron Banks a fine bay of a mile in breadth is terminated by the chalk bank, which is a whitish brown bluff, rising from the water's edge, surmounted by a forest of lofty trees." (Cuming, p280.)
49 The history of the controversies concerning the state line between Tennessee, Kentucky and Virginia with the final agreements is best told in "History of the Northern Boundary of Tennessee," by W. R. Garrett, A.M., Nashville, 1884. The locating of the Mississippi terminus of the line at the Iron Bank was a mistake, being too far north, but was popularly regarded as such till officially surveyed.
50 The ancient "Baedeker" of the Mississippi Valley was one Zadoc Cramer, of Pittsburg, who, about 1800, had put in print a guide book to the river routes west. Harris' "Journal of a tour," 1803, mentions "a little pamphlet published at Pittsburg, called the "Ohio Navigator" — that served him as a reference book. Its title page (fifth edition, 1806) affirms the book to be:
"The traders' useful guide in navigating the Monongahela, Allegheny, Ohio and Mississippi rivers, containing an ample account of these much-admired waters, from the head of the former to the mouth of the latter, a concise description of their towns, villages, harbours, settlements, etc., with particular directions how to navigate them, in all stages of the water, pointing out their rocks, ripples, channels, islands, bluffs, creeks, rivers, etc., and the distance from place to place." In this volume the islands in the Mississippi River receive numbers, commencing at the mouth of the Ohio, viz.: "Island No. 1," etc. (Early Western Travels,º, Vol. III, p334. "Historic Highways," A. B. Hulbert, Vol. IX, p74.)
51 That this boat eventually reached its destination may be inferred from the following "ad":
By our last arrival per the Barge Willing Maid, from New Orleans, we have received the following articles, viz.: A large quantity of Brown and Loaf Sugar, Coffee, Rum, Brandy, Teneriffe, Malaga and Sherry Wines, Claret in Bottles, Shad and Mackrel, Spanish Segars, Chocolate, Patent Shot off different sizes, a large quantity of Queens and Glass Ware. — all will be sold for cash. . . .
C. Stump & Co.
(Impar. Rev. April 18, 1807.)
52 The winter of 1806‑7 was memorable in the annals of the people for its severity. At Nashville, on February 6th, the mercury stood at five degrees above zero, and the next day by 10 A.M. it was down to the zero mark. As far south as Natchez it was unusually severe and had been at times during the preceding month of January. February 7th in Kentucky was remembered as the "Cold Friday." An account relates: "On two occasions only since the commencement of the present century the mercury has been caused to sink sixty degrees in twelve hours by these cold winds. The first occurred on the evening of the 6th of February, 1807, which was Thursday. At nightfall it was mild but cloudy; after night it commenced raining, with a high west wind. This rain soon changed to snow, which continued to fall rapidly to the depth of some six inches; but the wind, which moved at the rate of a hurricane, soon lifted and dispersed the clouds, and, within the short space of twelve hours, from the close of a very mild Thursday, all Kentucky was treated to a gentle rain, a violent snow-storm, and a bright, sunshiny morning, so bitterly cold that by acclamation it was termed cold Friday." (Claiborne's Hist. of Miss., p278. Impartial Review, Nashville, February 7, 1907. History of Ohio Falls Counties, Vol. I, p219.)
53 In "Recollections of the West," H. M. Brackenridge, mention is made of like courtesies shown by Mr. Humphreys, whom he speaks of as the "cadi," "alcalde" or local justice of the peace in 1809. See pp226‑229 of above mentioned volume.
54 This was in all probability Shadrack F. Bond, afterwards the first Governor of the State of Illinois. Born at Fredericksburg, Md., November 28, 1778; died at Kaskaskia, Ill., April 12, 1832. Having received a liberal education, he came to Illinois, where an uncle of the same name had lived for many years, since he was a member of G. R. Clark's expedition to the Illinois. He was elected a member of the first legislature of Illinois Territory and represented the Territory in Congress during the years 1812‑1814, when he was made receiver of public monies for the territory, with headquarters at Kaskaskia. In 1818 he became the first Governor of the new state, serving until 1822.
Thayer's Note: The editor will undo all of this in the Magazine's next installment of the Tour; wrong man. See p107.
55 This is a provincial spelling of Cape Girardeau. The first settlement was made here by Don Luiº Lorimer in the year 1794. He was appointed commandant of the post by the Spanish Governor with full civil and military authority. ("History of the Mississippi Valley," Rosier, p189.)
56 During the Spanish regime at New Madrid many prominent men settled there, viz.: Pierre A. LaForge, Jean LaValle and Dr. Richard Waters, who acted in official capacities. "They were men of considerable energy, generally highly educated, easy in circumstances, endowed with good sense, affable manners, and soon acquired great influence in the community, and became leading spirits of the infant colony." (Rosier, pp193‑198.)
57 New Madrid was originally the site of a Delaware Indian town. Here in 1780 two Frenchmen by the name of established a trading station. The surrounding country was a paradise for hunters, abounding in all species of game, etc. Such was this station as a depot of slaughter, etc., as it received the nickname of "L'Anse à la " — "Cove of Fat," "Greasy Place," etc. In 1787 Col. George Morgan of New Jersey sought to obtain from the Spanish authorities a large concession at this place and laid out the town which he named "New Madrid." After inducing some fifty emigrants to locate there, trouble arose between the Spanish authorities and Morgan, resulting in their annulling his partial grants and the occupation of the place as a military post by the Spanish themselves, who built a fort there to which they gave the name of Fort Celeste. When the United States Government took possession of the place after the cession of Louisiana in 1804, the population was reckoned as about 1,400. Later, in 1811‑12, the whole locality was almost destroyed by the noted earthquake disturbance.
58 "The following observations apply to the Mississippi, and point out the greatest impediments and the most imminent danger attending the navigation of this heavy-watered and powerful river: These are: 1st. The instability of the banks. This proceeds from their being composed of a loose, sandy soil, and the impetuosity of the current against their prominent parts, which, by undermining them unceasingly, causes them to tumble into the river, taking with them everything that may be above. And if when the event happens boats should be moored there, they must necessarily be buried in the common ruin, which has unfortunately sometimes been the case."
2nd. Planters, sawyers, and wooden islands. Planters are large bodies of trees firmly fixed by their roots in the bottom of the river, in a perpendicular manner, and appearing no more than about a foot above the surface of the water in its middling state. So firmly are they rooted that the largest boat running against them will not move them, but they frequently injure the boat. Sawyers are likewise bodies of trees fixed less perpendicularly in the river, and rather of a less size, yielding to the pressure of the current, disappearing and appearing by turns above water, similar to the motion of a saw-mill, from whence they have taken their name. Wooden islands are places where by some cause or other large quantities of driftwood has, through time, been arrested and matted together in different parts out of the river." "The Navigator," Cramer; "Historic Highways," A. B. Hulbert. Vol. IX, p74.
a Reuben Gold Thwaites' Early American Travels, 32 vols., Cleveland, 1904‑1907. Michaux's two narratives appear in Vol. III, Cuming's form Vol. IV, and Bradbury's form Vol. V. The entire set is online at the Library of Congress, under American Notes: Travels in America, 1750‑1920.
c The exact text as printed is: . . . dismissed the boats and procured Cumberland being called Upper Smithland. — Lodged the load on the beach dismissed the boats and procured comfortable boarding . . . . I suspect editorial error, in which the first procured, which doesn't make sense, came from the eye moving ahead to the next one, which does; and replaced some verb like left. Even so emended, the sense isn't that satisfactory, and maybe an entire line of the original manuscript was left out by the editor.
Images with borders lead to more information.
The thicker the border, the more information. (Details here.)
American History Notes
A page or image on this site is in the public domain ONLY
if its URL has a total of one *asterisk.
If the URL has two **asterisks,
the item is copyright someone else, and used by permission or fair use.
If the URL has none the item is © Bill Thayer.
See my copyright page for details and contact information.
Page updated: 12 Jun 13