Twelve Hundred Miles on Horseback One Hundred Years ago
The Diary of Hezekiah Prince
Edited by George Prince and published in "The New England Magazine" in September 1893
The town of Thomaston, Me., originally comprised what is now the city of Rockland and towns of Thomaston and South Thomaston. It was the headquarters of the Muscongus patent of 1629, afterwards the Waldo grant of 1730. A fort or trading station was erected on the shores of St. George’s River, fourteen miles from its mouth, about 1629. It stood fronting on a small, beautiful bay called by Waymouth, the explorer, in 1605, the “coddle of the river.” Fronting on this “coddle of the river,” on the site of the old fort, stood in later years the mansion of Major-Gen. Henry Knox, who had become owner of nearly the whole Waldo patent. The town at first was called “Lincoln,” but in 1777 was incorporated by the name of Thomaston, in honor of Major-Gen. John Thomas of the U.S. army, a native of Kingston, Mass., where a marble monument is erected to his memory. The first meeting-house built in Thomaston, in 1795, is yet standing. It cost $5,300. This building was purchased in 1826 by Hezekiah Prince, who, having been reimbursed to the extent of two thirds of the purchase money, bequeathed, at his decrease in 1840, the remaining one third, together with the bell, to the First Baptist Church in Thomaston.
St. George’s River was probably the first river in New England discovered and explored by the English, and the first to receive an English name. George Waymouth, the discoverer, in May, 1605, came upon this coast and cast anchor north of the island of Monhegan, which he named St. George. Certain mountains seen on first falling in with the land now bore “north, northeast from them.” They sent a boat on shore for wood, and on the next day, Whitsunday, the 19th, proceeded in their vessel “towards the mountains which were continually in their view,” and came to anchor in a beautiful, spacious harbor “between the islands more adjoining to the main and in the road directly with the mountains.” This they named Pentecost Harbor. It now bears the name of St. George’s Island harbor. The name, St. George’s Islands, was transferred by the Popham colonists, in 1607, from Monhegan to the Pentecost harbor group, because here they found the cross erected by Waymouth two years before. But Waymouth had named his principal island at Pentecost harbor “insula sanetae crusis, because there we set our first cross.” The name St. George’s was very soon applied to the adjacent river, perhaps by Sir Francis Popham’s people some years previous to 1614. Eaton, in his “History of Thomaston,” says that “ships of Sir Francis Popham had for many years visited the waters of St. George’s River only.” At any rate this name is borne on nearly all the old maps of those early dates, and the place was so called by the Plymouth Pilgrims in 1628, and by Cromwell in 1656.
Hezekiah Prince, of Thomaston, was a descendant of Elder John Prince and his wife, Alice Honor, of Hull, Mass. His biographer, Cyrus Eaton of Warren, author of the “History of Thomaston,” his lifelong friend and associate in the Massachusetts Legislature, thus speaks of him: -
“On the 17th of April, 1792, Hezekiah Prince of Kingston, Mass., twenty-one years of age, removed to Thomaston, with his chest of tools and clothes, at that time the whole amount of his worldly property. He fixed his home at the house had had built the year before for Isaiah Toman, the first licensed tavern in what is now the city of Rockland. In June this house was burned, Mr. Prince losing all his clothes except his working suit. He burnt a kiln of lime in the winter, and took it to Boston. In the fall of 1793 he took a journey to Virginia on horseback…He died in Thomaston, December 1840, having mingled in most of the transactions of this place for the preceding half-century. He was first selectman of both Thomaston and St. George in 1803 and many years afterwards, representing the latter town in the General Court of Massachusetts from 1808 to 1811. He was one of the most prominent mathematicians in the State. Exploring the secrets of geometry, algebra, and astronomy was a favorite amusement for his leisure hours, and a refuge from the infirmities of age to the close of life. He was a member of the Maine Senate in 1831-2, and for several terms, of the Executive Council. He was an active and exemplary member of many moral, charitable, and religious institutions. He was fortunate in his marriage with one who was a ready participant in all the amenities and charities of social, religious, and domestic life. As justice of the peace, Mr. Prince held his almost daily court in the parlor of his dwelling-house, and his docket shows that litigation was a favorite pastime. Doubtless the squire’s decisions, in the absence of a law library, required much good common-sense as a substitute for legal knowledge. Some of the most eminent lawyers of the time brought their cases before him, - Phinney, Farley, Thatcher, Foot, and others. He held the office of custom-house inspector and deputy collector from 1808 until his death in 1840. His report on lotteries, while in the Executive, Council, caused their expulsion from Maine.”
The following minutes of Mr. Prince’s twelve hundred miles’ horseback ride are copied from his diary, with occasional notes by the editor. He had purchased his horse the year previous, at Bangor, of one John Dennett, who came from Woolwich in 1771. This horse had been recommended by his neighbor, Dr. Isaac Barnard, who owned land in Bangor, and accompanied Mr. Prince there when he made his purchase. His saddle and other equipments procured, we now see our youthful traveler mounted for his long journey, with his top-boots and knee-breeches, his coat, doublet, and three-cornered hat, his long braided cue handing down his back nearly to his portmanteau. He was an experienced and graceful rider, sitting his horse as erect and easy in his saddle as a drill sergeant of cavalry. It would be interesting to us all, particularly so to his numerous living descendants of today - two children, twenty-three grandchildren, eighty great-grandchildren - could we here present his true portrait drawn at that early age. We can only picture him in our mind’s eye, with his light chestnut hair, his high forehead, his heavy eyebrows shading his light blue, sober-looking eyes, his full smooth face, his well-shaped nose, with firm mouth and chin, which he kept smooth and shaven during his life of threescore and ten years.
It will be remembered by the reader that in those early times there were but few wagon roads in all New England or in the country, except near the larger towns. It is recorded that in 1797 wheeled vehicles first began to run between New Bedord and Boston. Nearly all communication other than by water was by foot or horseback over the bridle-paths marked out by spotted trees between the scattered settlements and clearings. In the newer settlements in Maine the old Indian trails offered about the only means of land communication.
After placing his two apprentices, Jordan Lovett and Tilden Fraunce, at school in Kingston, Mass., Mr. Prince set out on his journey. His journal begins as follows. The editor’s notes are given in small type and brackets.
|Hezekiah Prince was a respected builder and community leader in late 18th century Maine. In the winter of 1793 the young scholar made a remarkable 1200 mile journey across the newly formed United States. During the course of this singular journey, Hezekiah met George Washington, whom he noted “was a fine rider on horseback.” Hezekiah also observed the White House being built.|
“I started from Isaiah Tolman’s Sunday morning, Nov. 3, 1793; the day was very pleasant. At Mill River I met Mason Wheaton, David Fales, and Mr. Dunton, the contractor, and went with them to view the mansion being erected at St. George’s River by Gen. Henry Knox. Mill River is the eastern branch of St. George’s. A saw and grist mill were erected here by Fluker and the Waldo heirs about 1736.”
[The waters of this branch are but two miles from the ocean at Pentecost Bay, now Rockland. They are the western end of the “upper carrying place,” on which, in the southwest part of the Rockland, is the site of the Indian town marked on John Smith’s map of 1614, “Norwich.” It was the abode of the great chief Bashabes, - Champlain calls him “Bessabes”; Gorges, “Bashaba,” - to whom all the Eastern chiefs and sagamores were subject. It was this Bashabes, who, June 12, 1605, sent messengers to Capt. Waymouth, who was then in the “cod” of St. Georges’ River, having just returned from his march inland towards the mountains. But Waymouth, having five Indian captives on board his ship, was suspicious, and declined the invitation, although Bashabes was waiting for him on the shore, less than half a mile distant. Had he visited the capital of the eastern Bashabes at that time the ghost of “Norumbega” would probably have been laid, for he would not have found a city of gilded palaces with pillars of crystal and silver, as described by Ingham, and so earnestly sought for by the early navigators, but he undoubtedly would have found a large Indian village of wigwams, the abode of the greatest of the Eastern Indian monarchs.]
“I rode to Warren in company with Mr. Bosworth, who is building the meeting-house at Union. I assisted at the raising last month. He has got it pretty well covered in. After leaving Sterling the road and country were entirely new to me, and full of interest. Before me was a thick forest, behind me ‘Madam-bettox’ and her sister hills faded away in the distance, and sank out of sight in the eastern horizon and behind the distant tree-tops.”
[These were the hills noticed by the earliest explorers, - Gosnold in 1602, Champlain in 1604 and 1605. Champlain calls them the mountains of Bedabedec. Waymouth, as we have seen, speaks of the “very high mountains to the north, northeast of us.” The Popham expedition of 1607 called them the “high mountains in on the land called Segochet”; and Capt. John Smith, in 1614, calls them “the high mountains of Penobscot,” and says, “You may well see them sixteen or eighteen leagues from their situation.”]
“I reached Mr. McGuires, Waldoboro, about eight o’clock, having rode seventeen miles.
“On the 4th I rode to Broad Cove, five miles. It being rainy I put up at Mr. Palmer’s. Some sixty German settlers were colonized by Thomas Fluker thirty or forty years ago, and it is now a thriving colony. At Mr. Palmer’s I met Mr. Miller, about seventy years old, a Mr. Walter, Mr. Ulmer, and quite a party of men and women who entertained me very courteously.
“Tuesday, 5th, I set out from Mr. Palmer’s; the weather was clear, but the roads very bad over the whole distance of twelve miles to Noble’s Bridge, Dameriscotta. It would be a paradise to hunters, but not so enticing to travelers. James Noble came to Dameriscotta Falls in 1730, and built mills here. He married a sister of Col. Wm. Vaughn, and through her came into possession of a large tract of land.”
[This was a portion of the John Brown territory, conveyed to Brown by the old Indian sagamore, nicknamed by Sir Francis Popham’s Somerset fisherman at Muscongus and St. George’s Capt. John Somerset. He it was who welcomed the Plymouth Pilgrims in 1621. They mistook the sound of the name for Sam-o-set, thinking it an Indian name. The town of Nobleboro was incorporated in 1788 and named in honor of James Noble and his brother, Col. Arthur Noble, the hero of Louisburg in 1745, who was killed at Minas in 1747.]
“From here I rode through a forest of undulation land, - white oak, walnut, maple, with occasional pines and spruce. Seven miles to the head of Sheepsgut. There is quite a clearing here, land very fertile with fine intervales.”
[This was probably near the celebrated Sheepscot farms, a settlement established under the administration of the Duke of York in 1665, the ruins of which are so interestingly described in the ninth volume of the Maine Historical Society’s Collections, by the painstaking historian, Alex Johnston, Esq., of Wiscasset. These and other remains of old settlements have been exaggerated by certain wonder-working narrators into populous cities of a lost race inhabiting these shores in prehistoric ages!]
“I fell in here with a Mr. Seth Bradford, and was glad of his company. He had his gun, and in our ride of sixteen miles all sorts of wild game were seen, - moose, deer, bears, together with flocks of partridges, almost as plenty as the summer flies. We shot what we wanted, and caught from one stream by the edge of our bridle path nine large salmon trout, in less than half an hour, which we carried with our game to Cobasy, and had cooked for our supper.
“There are saw and grist mills at Cobasy owned by Dr. Gardner. They are carried on by Benjamin Shaw, where we stopped. In the evening quite a party gathered at Mr. Shaw’s. We had dancing, singing, and games, quite a lively time, which we enjoyed in spite of our fatigue.
“Wednesday, 6th. I set out alone from Cobasy; rode four miles up the river to Bumby Hook [Hallowell]. This is the residence of Gen. William Lithgow, our member of Congress, and is a place of much wealth and culture, second only to Portland. An academy, started two years ago, is nearly completed. From here I rode ten miles in company with a Dr. Vaughn, and took dinner at Chandler’s tavern in Winthrop. New settlers are moving into this locality constantly; the land is rich and valuable. From here to ‘Amescogin’ River is twenty miles. Many farms and good stock of cattle. Put up at Mr. Harris’s in Lewiston. He is one of the first settlers here; came from Dracut, Mass., twenty-three years ago. The place is called ‘Harris Falls.’ About one hundred families in the town, - Petingills, Garcelons, Mitchells, Harrises, and Reads.
“My course from Winthrop was nearly south. The country spread out before me looking very beautiful in its autumnal garb, and opening into numerous clearings. The white snow-clad hills of New Hampshire rising out of the horizon, and the farther I advanced their outlines becoming clear and distinct, although fifty miles away. The farmhouses, mostly built of logs, sometimes were within neighborly distance from each other, and again miles intervened between the nearest neighbors. At almost every door smiling faces greeted me as I rode past, and often by the roadside cornfield or potato patch the ruddy-faced men and boys would hold me for a moment’s chat or a word of news. The apple orchards along the route were loaded with fruit. I regaled myself and horse with some of the abundant windfalls, and was treated to mug after mug of cider and apple-jack. In one of the doorways stood three or four young girls with their arms flung over each other’s shoulders, waving their hands and hats and cheering me lustily.
“Thursday, 7th. I crossed the Amescogin River at Bakerton. Jacob Baker built mills here in 1775. From thence I traveled eleven miles to my sister Fuller’s in Hebron. This part of the country was settled mostly by people from Plymouth County. Hebron was incorporated last year, formerly called Shepardsfield, from the proprietor, Alexander Shepard of Plymouth. John Greenwood, Job Holmes, and other Old Colony people bought land of Shepard. I kept Thanksgiving with Mr. Fuller and family. They have eight children.”
[Three of the sons were apprenticed to their uncle Hezekiah, and married and settled in Thomaston and vicinity. This sister Fuller lived to the ripe old age of ninety-one.]
“Saturday, 9th. My sister and I went to Bucktown, nine miles, to my brother Job’s farm. He married in 1791 Hannah Bryant, daughter of Stephen, who came to Maine from Halifax, Mass., 1778. My brother Job has two girls, Lydia and Rebecca.”
[Lydia married a Young, and died at St. Johnsbury, Vt., Jan. 20, 1888, aged ninety-four. This Oxford family of Princes in later years became conspicuously connected with Maine’s political and industrial history. Two of the sons were presidents of the Maine Senate, and were otherwise distinguished, as were also their sons.]
“There are about 550 inhabitants in this town; the soil seems to be rich and fertile and bids fair to settle up rapidly. The people are all industrious and appear to be contented and happy in their forest homes. My sister and I returned to Hebron on Monday, the 11th. Wednesday my sister had a spinning bee. About a dozen spinning wheels were brought to the house and were in operation; the girls vied with each other which should turn out the greatest number of skeins. In the eve the young men came, and a jolly time we all had. If Mr. Fuller did not kill the fatted calf, the refreshment table was furnished forth with plenty of other attractions and delicacies. The usual nine-o’clock retiring hour was extended into midnight. I had many warm adieus and kind wished for the morrow’s journey.
“One thing I can but admire in all these new settlements, the kind neighborly feeling that exists. It is in some respects like one large family. They assist each other in all their heavy work, all the neighbors and settlers for miles around joining their forces and uniting their labor in husking bees, house building, wood clearing, etc., and the women in quilting and the like. When one farmer kills a cow or swine, the others take the parts that can be spared to them, and so time their butchering as to accommodate the community. Homespun clothing is in general use, flax and wool being principally worn, very little cotton, as it is too expensive; calico seventy-five cents per yard, cotton cloth fifty cents. Farm hands are paid from eight to ten dollars per month, and female help fifty cents per week. There are no regular mails or post-offices except in the few larger towns, and letters are carried by private parties and delivered as opportunity offers. Spelling schools and signing schools are the indoor sports; the outdoor amusements are gunning parties, sleigh rides, and coasting on bobsleds.
“Thursday, 14th. I set out from Mr. Fuller’s in company with Mr. Hezekiah Ripley; we pass by Emery Mills and through Glosater; traveling being very bad we put up at Grey, having rode but twenty-eight miles. High land and good soil. The White Mountains seem very near to us.
“Friday, 15th. We set out from Grey. At Westbrook we met the Rev. Thos. Smith and Mr. Joseph Titcomb, riding out in a carriage. Mr. Smith is aged ninety-two. Says he has preached in Portland sixty-eight years.”
[Mr. Smith came from Massachusetts, a graduate of Harvard College, May, 1727; died May, 1795. Joseph Ticomb was a member of the Massachusetts Legislature with Mr. P. from 1806 to 1811.]
“We arrived at Wells about 7 p.m., having rode forty miles. This town was incorporated many years ago. Its Indian name was Webamit. A Baptist church under Elder Lord organized this year. Rev. John Wheelwright, who was banished from Boston with his sister-in-law Anne Hutchinson, settled here in 1643, where he owned a large tracts of land.
“Saturday, 16th. We set out from Wells, passing through Berwick, where we made a call on old John Sullivan, aged one hundred and two years; his wife, eighty.”
[Sullivan’s two sons became governors, one of New Hampshire, the other of Massachusetts.]
“Agamenticus lies in view off to the eastward. I have often seen these mountains from the sea as I coasted along shore.
“We passed through Dover, Durham, New Market, to Exeter, where we put up; distance, 42 miles. This is an old settlement. I visited an old house built about 1650 by one John Gilman. His grandson, Gen. Peter Gilman, owned and occupied it during the Revolution. On one of the windows is the following record scratched with a diamond: ‘Hon. Peter Gilman, Esq., and Mrs. Jane Prince were married September, 1761; Chandler Robbins and Jane Prince were married October, 1761; Thomas Cary and Debbrah Prince were married September, 1783. Hannah Robbins, April 9, 1788.’ I suppose this Chandler Robbins was the pastor of Plymouth church.”
“Sunday, 17th. We set out from Exeter, passed through Kingston, Plastow, and dined at Haverhill ferry, a large, industrial town. From there we rode to Wilmington and put up, 36 miles.
“Monday, 18th. Started at daybreak; good traveling; arrived at Boston, a.m., sixteen miles, through Woburn, Medford, and Charlestown. Saw the house where Count Rumford was born in 1753. His wife died in Concord, N.H., last year, and his only child, Sarah, has gone to join her father at Munich. A canal through this region has just been started.”
“I stopped with my cousin, James Prince, who married Miss Gordon. He is U.S. marshal, the son of my uncle Job Prince. My father, Kimball Prince of Kingston, Mass., together with four brothers and one sister, were all born at Rocky Nook, Kingston. Their father was Capt. Job Prince, who married Abigail Kimball of Bridgewater, 1722. His father was Capt. Thomas Prince of Boston, who married Ruth Turner of Scituate, and had five children, viz., Thomas, James, Ruth, Benjamin, and Job.”
[Capt. Thomas Prince’s father was Elder John Prince of Hull, who came over previous to 1635.]
“My grandfather, Capt. Job Prince of Rocky Nook, Kingston, died at Jamaica, W.I., of the smallpox in 1734. Three of his sons were sea captains residing in Boston. Capt. Job married Elisabeth Allen, died 1790. His mansion house was between McLean Street and Allen Street, West End, his estate reaching to Charles River. Capt. James, who married two wives, Miss Foster and Miss Jenks, died 1759. My father administered on his estate. Capt. Christopher married a daughter of Hopestill Foster of Hollis Street. He lived on Newbury Street, now Washington. He was a royalist, and went with his family to Nova Scotia. I have often been at my uncle Job’s mansion, once with my father in 1785. He had eight children, - Hezekiah, for whom I was named, Capt. Job, Jr., master of the big ship ‘Massachusetts,’ Thomas, James, and Samuel; also three daughters, Sarah, Elizabeth, and Abigal. My cousin James says the population of Boston is 20,000. He is in favor of a city government. Cousin Thomas and James escorted me round. We visited the site of the new State House on Beacon Hill. They are digging away Monument Hill. We also crossed the new bridge to Cambridge. It will be open for travel in a few days.
“This famous bridge is over 7,000 feet long and about 40 feet wide; the bridge proper stands on 180 piers; it will cost about $116,000. At Cambridge we visited the college buildings, conversed with Mr. Willard, the president, and Mr. Shapleigh, librarian. Called on a gent by the name of Craigie, who lives in an elegant house surrounded by trees and beautiful shrubs. The farm, which he purchased last year, contains two hundred acres.”
[Andrew Craigie was a Scotchman. He was on Gen. Washington’s staff. He purchased the Vassal House in 1792, married Elisabeth Shaw of Nantucket, 1793, and died 1819, aged seventy. This venerable mansion, with eight acres of land, was afterwards owned by the poet Longfellow.]
“I called on William Molineux and made a contract with him for next year.”
[The father of this William Molineux was of Huguenot ancestry; died in Boston, 1774. He was, with the exception of Samuel Adams, the most prominent and influential of the Sons of Liberty. He resided in a beautiful mansion on the corner of Mount Vernon and Beacon Streets; was one of the “tea party.” His son William purchased land in Camden, Me., in 1786, and moved there 1794. He erected a grist-mill and saw-mill, and a fine house on Molineux Lake, where he dispensed the most liberal hospitality. He sailed and fished from his birch canoe on the lake, and was drowned in front of his house, about 1800. Mr. Prince bought land of him, and worked for him frequently.]
“In eve we visited Washington Gardens.”
[This fashionable resort had formerly been the grounds of Col. James Swan, on Tremont Street north of West Street. He sold his city residence, and in 1780 purchased the Hatch estate in Roxbury. He was one of the celebrated tea party in 1773, was likewise at Bunker Hill, and was wounded by the side of Gen. Warren. He was in Paris during the French Revolution, and was afterwards imprisoned there for debt, from 1808 until the revolution of 1830 opened his prison doors. He died in Paris in 1831. His widow, Hepzibah C. Swan, a very eccentric lady, resided in the Roxbury mansion until her death, in 1825 or 1829. Her son, James, married Caroline, youngest daughter of Gen. Knox. They resided in the Knox mansion, “Montpelier,” at Thomaston, Me., where Swan died; his widow married the Hon. John Holmes, formerly U.S. senator from Maine, and remained in the old mansion until her death, in 1851.]
“Tuesday, 19th. Set out from Boston over my old familiar route at 4 p.m., a pleasant moonlight ride, and arrived at my father’s house at 9 p.m.”
“My brother John lives at the homestead with my parents. He married Elisabeth Sherman three years ago. They have two girls, Anna and Mercy.”
[Mrs. Mercy (Prince) Cushman, of Kingston, died 1887, aged ninety-five nearly; a son, Hon. Noah Prince of Kingston, died aged about ninety-two; a daughter, Mrs. Curtis, is now living, aged eighty-four.]
“I visited my sister Sarah at Plympton. She married Perez Bradford, a descendant of Gov. Bradford; they have nine children. My sister Deborah married Elisha Washburn. They live in Kingston and have three children,-Mary, Kimball, and Job.”
[This sister Deborah died aged eighty-nine. This son Job lived to the age of ninety-four; the daughter Mary, to about seventy; another daughter, Mrs. Sarah P. Snow, of Thomaston, to over ninety. Three of his family lived with their uncle Hezekiah Prince, and married and settled at Thomaston.]
“Monday, Dec. 2. I Left Kingston, passing through Taunton to Pawtucket; distance, thirty-nine miles.
“Tuesday, 3d. Crossed the river to Providence, R.I., and continued on to Plainfield, Conn., thirty-four miles.
“Wednesday, 4th. Set out from Plainfield, and it soon began to snow and drift badly; reached Preston, having lost my way in the storm; stopped at Mr. Lester’s; went on to Tracy’s tavern and put up; thirteen miles.
“Thursday, 5th. Set out from Tracy’s; went through Norwich Landing, arriving at my brother Kimball’s, New London, in the afternoon; distance, eighteen miles.
“I stopped with my brother six days. He is a mason by trade. My brothers Noah, John, and brother-in-law Bradford were his apprentices some years ago. He married, 1784, the widow, Mrs. Lucretia (Hempstead) Colfax. They have six boys.
“My brother and I visited Fort Griswold, which was captured by Benedict Arnold, September, 1782. Capt. Ledyard and sixty soldiers of the garrison put to death after their surrender. Many evidences still exist of the traitor’s acts in the plunder and destruction of New London. In my ride from Norwich to New London I passed through the little Indian village, where dwell the last remnant of the Mohican tribe. They have a neat little wooden church, their dwellings much the same as our Penebscot tribe at Bangor. The famous chief Uncas died about 1690. His remains lie buried in a little roadside graveyard in Norwich.
“Wednesday, Dec. 11. Set out from New London; crossed Seabrook Ferry; went through Killingsworth to Guilford, where I put up; distance, forty-one miles. I find the country all along the coast pretty well settled with intelligent people; most of them seem prosperous and happy.
“Thursday, 12th. Set out from Guildford; took dinner at New Haven City, a thriving, nice-looking place, beautiful shade trees and gardens. Went on to Fairfield and put up; distance, thirty-seven miles. Many frame houses are built all along the route, and the farmers busy at work.
“Friday, 13th. Set out from Fairfield; passed through Stamford, and put up at East Chester. I find the roads improving; made forty-three miles today quite easy; my horse fresh and active as when I first started.
“Saturday, 14th. Set out early from East Chester; crossed Kings Bridge, and by a smooth road along the North River and down Bowery Lane; that and Broadway are the two best roads leading to the city. At Bowery Village I called at the tavern and drank a tankard good old Dutch ale.”
“Some of the old walls of the Stuyvesant mansion house, which was burned by the British, are yet standing, also the old pear-tree planted by the governor. From here to Bull’s Head and cattle yards is a mile and a half.”
[This was near where the Bowery Theatre was built in after years.]
“The houses on Bowery Lane are small, with porches in front, the street lined with trees glistening with the scarlet autumn leaves, and between them glimpses of East River with a swarm of vessels and boats. I crossed North River by Hoboken ferry, thence to Hacknasack ferry, where I put up; distance, thirty miles.
“Sunday, 15th. Crossed Hacknasack ferry, and from thence to the head of the Aguackanack to my brother Christopher’s in Patterson, on Passaic River; distance, nine miles. Christopher Prince, my oldest brother, is a retired shipmaster, born 1751; married Lucy Colfax of New London in 1778; they had no children.
“Tuesday, 17th. My brother took me to Passaic Falls and the factories there, which were a great curiosity to me. They cost $500,000; employ five hundred men on Marshal’s machinery works; the cotton manufactory is carried by one water wheel, working some ten thousand spindles; cards, spins, and weaves two hundred pounds a day, dropping about fifty rolls a minute. The jennies spin one hundred and forty-four threads at once, the looms weave thirty yards a day. All the machinery so accurately adjusted that any part may be stopped and started again without interfering with other parts. The water is conducted in a singular manner through a clevis in the rocks from the falls to the factory. We also visited the linen factory, four miles distant from this, which excited my curiosity nearly as much; one man here spins with forty-eight spools.”
[This was Mr. Prince’s first experience with cotton mulls. He afterwards, 1813, built and was part owner and overseer of a large cotton mill in Thomaston, Me.]
“Having remained with my brother and his amiable companion until Dec. 21, I set out again on my tour to the southward, passing through Newark, Elisabethtown, and on to Pascatua, thirty-three miles, and put up.
“Sunday, 22d. Set out from Pascatua and rode to Princeton and Maidenhead. Stopped awhile to view the battle ground. There are quite a number of slaves in this State, but emancipation is strongly advocated.”
[Laws for the gradual emancipation of slavery were not adopted in New Jersey until February, 1804. New Jersey was the last to join the free states.]
“From here proceeded to Trenton City, over the route of the two armies. Crossed the Delaware River and proceeded to Fallstown [Fallsington], where I put up; distance, forty-two miles, missing my way some five miles.
“Monday morn, 23d. I rode into Philadelphia and spent the day there. The philanthropist, Stephen Girard, was pointed out to me. For sixty days during the late yellow-fever scourge he devoted his whole time in the crowded hospitals at Brush Hill; more than forty-five hundred people out of a population of twenty-five thousand died from Aug. 1 to Nov. 9.
“President Washington and his Cabinet advisers were objects of my curiosity. I had seen Washington when he was in Boston in the fall of 1789. He is now, as he was then, a tall, superb, well-made man, slightly corpulent, but straight and dignified in his manners. He was a fine rider on horseback. His dress coat was buttoned to his chin, his buckskin breeches and top-boots fitted him perfectly. Gen. Knox, I thought, imitated him closely in dress. Knox recognized me, and greeted me cordially. I had met him at Thomaston a few times, where he is now erecting a stately mansion on his estate, the Waldo patent.
“Philadelphia streets are laid out like a checkerboard, and many of them are bordered by the original forest trees that the early settlers left standing when they laid out the streets through the forest. I took a look at the members of Congress in their seats, visited the museum, and the grave of Franklin, who died some three years since.
“The English and French war has caused much party feeling all through the country. People will take sides, some with one country, some with the other, and members of Congress are divided in opinion. The Federal party sympathizes with England, and the anti-Federal with France. I think Washington will be sustained in his opposition to the intrigues of Genet, although it is evident that the English are as hostile towards us as ever. Notwithstanding to the treaty of peace, they still retain possession of our western forts and refuse to give them up, and continue to impress our seamen as boldly as ever.
“Since the election last January, the Federal party have grown stronger. Most of our New England members are identified with that party, although Jefferson Madison, Monroe, Clinton, Burr, and other anti-Federals are very strong and influential men; they are in favor of an open Senate, which the Federals oppose. Jefferson had decided not to remain the Cabinet another terms.
“Politics is the all-absorbing theme. I can see that each party is jealous of the other. I believe that both are friendly to the letter of the Constitution.
“Gen. Knox introduced me to Mr. Bingham, who has just purchased a million acres of wild land on the upper Kennebec and fifty-two townships east of Penobscot. He wished me to act as his agent in surveying and settling these lands, but I had entered into other engagements, and was obliged to decline.”
[William Bingham was considered the richest man in America, and his wife had the reputation of being the most beautiful and captivating lady in the land. He had one son and five daughters. Two of his daughters married the brothers, Alexander and Henry Baring, London bankers, - Alexander Baring becoming Lord Ashburton. The three other daughters married in America, viz., Gilmore of Baltimore, and Willing and Hare of Philadelphia. Mr. Bingham bought, through Gen. Knox, the above-named wild lands of Maine for the sum of $311,250, on condition that he should settle forty families on each township within seven years. These inland townships were slow in settling up. For thirty-five years the sales on the Kennebec were not sufficient to pay the taxes, and it is doubtful if the Bingham speculation was a success. Mr. Prince again met the Binghams at Thomaston in 1796, when they were on a visit to Gen. Knox. The father removed to England, and died there 1806.
The yellow-fever scourge mentioned by Mr. Prince was a frightful pestilence. More than half the population fled from the fever-stricken city, and most of those who remained kept secluded in their houses. The silence of the deserted streets was broken only by the rumble of the death-carts. Whole families perished in their houses, neglected and unknown. Stephen Girard left the comforts of his own home, and for sixty days acted as nurse in the crowded, fetid hospitals, bringing in the sick in his arms, carrying out and burying the dead with his own hands, and deeding others in their houses.]
“Tuesday, the 24th. I left Philadelphia; crossed the floating bridge; a fine pleasant day.
“From Philadelphia I had a pleasant ride through a fine country; the settlers are mostly Germans, a kind-hearted, hospitable people. I reached Dilworth and Birmingham Church about noon. This is the site of the battle of Brandywine, which occurred sixteen years ago. I took dinner at Mrs. James Davis’s. The locality where Lafayette, now a prisoner at Olmutz, was wounded was pointed out to me. Some of the ravages of that battle are still visible. I crossed Dodd’s ford and put up at Christiana, Del., thirty-six miles from Philadelphia.
“Wednesday, 25th. Set out from Christiana, crossed Iron Hill to the head of Elk River, the riding bad; passed Charlestown, missed my way, and lost some three miles, and finally reached the Susquehanna River, where I put up, making a distance of twenty-nine miles. I find quite a difference between the society in New York and New England and Pennsylvania. The Eastern people seem more nervous and active, always on the move. The older of the Dutch settlers were an exception; they were more corpulent, less active, and looked as sleepy as their peaked roof yellow dwellings. The Pennsylvanians with their plain garbs and silent ways were to me interesting and impressive. In the country towns some of the customs and habits would strike the Puritan of New England as peculiar and very objectionable. Their farming tools and implements are many years behind New England. Their soil, however, is very fertile and smooth.
“Thursday, 26th. I crossed the Susquehanna ferry, where I fell in company with Mr. Printice of North Carolina. We kept company, reaching Bushtown to dinner, and then proceeded on. Mr. Printice broke his axletree, which detained us four hours. We reached the Red house and put up; distance, twenty-nine miles.
“Friday, 27th. We set out from the Red house and arrived at Baltimore, distance thirteen miles, Mr. Printice having broken down twice on the way. We were detained here during Saturday repairing Mr. Printice’s gig. Baltimore harbor is frozen over, and navigation entirely suspended. Were it not for this drawback, Baltimore would have rivaled Philadelphia and perhaps New York in business and population. There are many rich merchants here. It has the only bank existing south of Philadelphia. The president and principal owner is William Patterson. I saw him, his wife and daughter, riding in their carriage with a liveried driver and footman. The commercial character of the people is much like that of the East, except a spirit of political controversy and baleful partisanship.”
[Mr. Patterson, here referred to, was the father of Miss Elisabeth Patterson, who was born Feb. 6, 1785, and married Christmas eve, 1803, to Jerome Bonaparte, brother of Napoleon. Jerome, like his brother, was divorced from his wife, and married again in Europe.]
“Sunday, 29th. We crossed the rope ferry, and rode through an almost interminable forest for thirty-five miles to Bladensburg, where we put up; scarcely any inhabitants along the whole route.
“Monday, 30th. We rode to the place intended for the new Federal City. It is yet nothing but a forest, with here and there long lines of felled trees where the streets are to be. A few workmen’s shanties stand clustered near the Capitol building and the President’s house, neither of which has scarcely reached above the foundation walls, and it is said $200,000 have already been expended. A hotel and a few other buildings are in course of erection. It is a dismal place enough, swampy and wet. They intend to name the city ‘Washington.’ We dined at Georgetown, from thence crossed the Potomac River, and proceeded on to Alexandria and Colchester, passing two miles south of Washington’s home, Mt. Vernon, making a distance of thirty-three miles.
“Tuesday, 31st. We crossed the ferry at Colchester on the ‘Occuquan,’ over miserable roads, and through a more miserable, God-forsaken region of humanity, until our arrival at Fredericksburg, where we crossed the ferry and put up, making a distance of thirty-five miles.
“Wednesday, Jan. 1st, 1794. We set out from Fredericksburg, riding some miles along the banks of the Rappahannock River, where are some fine plantations, with fields of tobacco, corn, and grain. We dined at a thrifty, hospitable planter’s at Bowling Green. He has one hundred slaves, sells a great many to go South. From here we rode to the Mattapony River and put up at May Oakes in the southern part of Carline County, having made a distance of thirty-five miles.
“From Alexandria to Fredericksburg the traveling was bad, the settlers unthrifty, and society in a bad state. At Fredericksburg I noticed a change for the better. The soil on both sides of the Rappahannock very fertile. Vessels drawing twelve feet of water ascend the river to this place. Splendid forests of white oak adorn both sides of the river for miles. Washington’s mother was buried here four years ago. I visited her grave.”
[Mr. Prince in after years remembered the “splendid forests of white oak,” and in 1830, when the shipbuilding interests of his home in Maine became crippled from want of oak timber, he chartered a vessel and sent her to his river for a supply. It was an experiment, and a successful trade soon sprang up and was very essential for the continuation of shipbuilding.]
“From Fredericksburg to Bowling Green our route was over a somewhat better road, through a slightly rolling country. Large fields of tobacco all along the way, and the negroes rolling the barrels along the road to market. From Bowling Green to the Mattapony River the country was more level, with stunted pines, black-jack, and slashes.
“Thursday, 2d. Rode to Hanover Court House and dined.
“The old weather-worn brick Court House at Hanover is a revered relic of Revolutionary times. Hanover Court House was quite a populous town when Richmond was a wilderness, and came near being selected for the capital. This was the birthplace and home of Patrick Henry. The old tavern where we dined was once kept by his father-in-law Shelton, and Patrick Henry it is said kept the bar. The jail is almost crumbling to pieces. Although the early life of Patrick Henry was not promising, he became one of the most famous of the orators and statesmen of his time. He was the author of the first protest against the English Stamp Act, and when advocating his protest he defiantly referred King George III to ‘Caesar and his Brutus,’ and to ‘Charles the First and his Cromwell,’ regardless of the cries of ‘treason.’
“From Hanover Court House to near Richmond the road is over marshes, swamps, and slashes, and the corduroy roads more tedious than the bad ones we have already passed.”
[Henry Clay was born about four miles from Hanover Court House. He was at this time about eighteen years of age, a clerk in the Chancery Court at Richmond.]
“During this bewildering ride we missed our way, but finally arrived at Richmond, after having traveled forty-two miles.”
[The distance from Hanover Court House to Richmond is about sixteen or seventeen miles, whereas they rode about thirty miles after leaving Hanover Court House. They must have gone up the South Anna or down the Pamunkey some ten or fifteen miles. They passed over the ground where Gen. McClellan fought his seven days’ battles in June, 1862, and where Gen. Grant fought the bloody strife at Cold Harbor, two years later.]
“Friday the 3d. I parted with my companion. We had kept company for seven days, and traveled more than 220 miles, through woods, and fields, and swamps, taking down and putting up furlongs of Virginia fences, and fording numerous rivers and streams, and patching up long distances of the corduroy roads ere we could pass over them. The unmeaning chatter and grimaces of the slaves, when we tried to get any information, were anything but amusing; and many of their owners spoke a jargon almost as difficult to understand. Yet the people here are, as in fact I have found them throughout my whole journey, generous and hospitable.
“Virginia, in point of population and political influence, stands the first among the States of the Union. The seat of government was changed from Williamsburg to Richmond, and this fine inland city became the capital of Virginia about a dozen years ago. It was burnt by Benedict Arnold in 1781. It had then about 1,800 inhabitants, half blacks. It now has some 5,000. The new brick Capitol building, with its portico end studded with columns reaching to the eaves, is a fine architectural structure, differing somewhat from our American style. The plans were procured by Jefferson while he was in Europe, and it is much admired. The building stands in a public square, surrounded by a large number of the old original forest trees.
“After crossing the James River ferry to Manchester, I proceeded on into Powhaton County, a distance of thirty miles, and arrived at the end of my long but pleasant and instructive journey of more than 1,200 miles. I found my brother Noah, with his wife and two children, well and pleasantly located. He married Ann A. Ellmore of Manchester in 1788. He has fifteen slaves. I find that the slaves in Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia are apparently lightly worked, comfortably clothed and fed, and seemingly happy; their happiness probably is in a great measure animal and sensual. Their amusements are of the simplest kind. There is a general disposition among the slaveholders favoring emancipation. The example of the North in liberating their slaves is doing its work, and the rest of the states, I am confident, will soon set their negroes free. The Virginia roads, except those near a city or large town, are most wretchedly bad, and what repairs are made are generally left to the discretion and inclination of the slave. Politics and sports seem to be the sole objects of the well-do-do whites. Their social inclinations and their somewhat isolated situations often prompt the convivial planter, when his white neighbors are engaged or beyond his reach, to send out to the nearest crossroad tavern, and invite any transient stranger who may chance to be stopping there to make him a visit. My traveling companion and myself were made the participants of one of these humorous instances of a Virginia planter’s desire for company. While we were stopping for the night in Carline County, we received a polite note from a planter by the name of Stapleton to visit him at his house, a few miles distant. The note was brought to us by a negro with a carriage and lantern, who conducted us to his master’s house, and returned with us to the tavern at midnight. We were princely entertained, and amused by the stories of our host, who claimed to be a descendant of Pocahontas, and stated that his plantation was a part of Powhaton’s hunting grounds. I wondered much at the strong attachment exhibited by the negro slaves toward their masters and the family, even in those cases where I could see that the masters little deserved such affection. Their religious services are wild, and at times almost raving; indulged more as a habit than in reverence. The poor whites, or ‘crackers’ as they are called, are but little in advance of the negro. They are descended from criminals, imported and kidnapped laborers sent to America in early days. They were not exactly slaves, but indentured. The lash was as freely applied to them as to the negroes. As a general rule these persons on release become vagabonds. They were lazy and shiftless, and were the legitimate progenitors of the ‘mean white trash’ so contemptible even in the eyes of the negro slaves. Southern people who are opposed to emancipation point to these ‘low-downers’ as examples of what the slaves if free will become, and thus the whole country be overrun with a lawless set of pariahs and vagabonds.
“The upper class at the South, whether planters, merchants, or professional men, are not as a general thing workers, but rather idlers and absorbed in politics and amusements. They are commonly tall, thin, sallow-complexioned, muscles somewhat relaxed, large bushy whiskers, fond of smoking, horse-racing, cock-fighting, gander-pulling, barbecues, hunting, mint sling, etc. Their queer modes of expression and dialect are learned from their early and constant association with their slaves. Horseback riding is general with males and females, commonly riding double, and sometimes thribble. Their cattle are poor and scrawny, their swine long-legged and long-snouted. I joined but few of their hunting parties; they cannot compare with such sports in the forests of Maine.”
[This lack of interest in their hunting parties, in a young man of twenty-one, the owner of a fast horse, a capital horseman, and a good shot, is perhaps only partly explained in the last sentence.]
Here end our extracts from Mr. Prince’s diary. The reader will not
fail to notice the indifference of the young traveler to the objectionable
features of negro slavery. The institution was then nowhere regarded as so
brutal, unnatural, and unrepublican as it proved itself to be. That it would,
like a bloodhound, ever jump at the throat of the Federal Union, never entered
into the mind of man. The opinion then entertained concerning the quiet and
satisfied condition of the slaves was suddenly dispelled in 1800, when the
Gabriel insurrection broke out in the neighborhood of Richmond. It was this
defeated insurrection that prompted John Randolph to say, “The night bell is
never heard to toll in the city of Richmond but the anxious mother presses her
infant more closely to her bosom.”
Our traveler spent twenty-two days very pleasantly, and his journal contains many scenes and incidents that occurred, showing the habits and customs of Virginians in 1794. On Saturday, Jan. 25, 1794, having disposed of his horse and equipments, he proceeded to Richmond and took passage on board the schooner “Betsey,” Noah Stoddard, master. They reached Hampton Roads on the 30th, and stood out to sea, and arrived at Fairhaven, Mass., on the 3d of February. Here Mr. Prince left the vessel, hired a conveyance, and reached his father’s house in Kingston on the 4th, where he spent the rest of the winter. Early in the spring, with his two apprentices, he proceeded to Boston, took passage for Thomaston, and arrived April 8 at the house of his landlord, Isaiah Tolman, whence he had started five months before.
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