Traveling From Hopewell to Florida in 1833
by Dr. Jonathan Pratt,
copied from the original by C. B. H.
I am not sure who CBH is.
On the 15th of November 1833 I left my residence in Hopewell, Ontario County, NY for Port Gibson on the Erie and Hudson Canal. P.G. is a small place and from its vicinity to Palmyra and Newark will probably always be so. At 10 PM I took a packet boat for Utica. In the morning found myself at Cayuga marsh, thirty miles distant from where I went on board.
The morning brought to view a great number of passengers who issued from every berth until there was little room to stand or sit with comfort. Among them I observed a gentleman who had a fine figure and an intelligent countenance. Upon inquiry I was informed it was John Neal of Portland Maine. He soon commenced conversation on various topics which he conducted with great ease and ability. With acuteness of understanding was combined one of the most retentive memories I ever saw. With quickness of apprehension, loquacity and urbanity of manners was one of the most interesting of individuals I have ever met with. He has traveled much I understand with a view to discover defects in education and in different institutions with a view to remedy them if possible. He is now (with his lady) returning from a tour through the western states, the object of which I am not able to learn. A self-made man, he has acquired what education he possessed by assiduity and industry. He now edits a paper in Portland which is conducted with ability and unless I am greatly deceived is as well qualified for an editor as any man with which I am acquainted. Upon the whole I think him a rare genius and a most interesting man.
I arrived in Utica on the morning of the 17th and immediately went on board another boat for Schenectady. Utica has increased much within four years and is now a flourishing city. Genesee Street presents a fine appearance with stately mansions finished in good style. During the day it snowed and was very disagreeable which prevented my being on deck and consequently I had but a poor opportunity of seeing the country.
We passed the Onondaga Salt works where is made nearly all the salt used in the state and also partly supplies several other states. They have two processes by which it is made, via-baking and slow evaporation in the sun. From what I could observe I suppose the most is made by the latter method though it is necessarily confined to a small part of the year. The evaporation is produced by exposing as large a surface to the action of the suns rays as possible. For this purpose large shallow vats are made which have communication with each other and are spread out over several acres. They have roofs fixed on rollers which are removed in fair weather and run over at rainy times.
I arrived in Schenectady very early on the morning of the 18th and as soon as our baggage could be removed we stepped into a rail-car for Albany. This is a pleasant way of traveling but I think not very safe. As we were gliding along very smoothly with scarcely any jarring sensation we were on a sudden rudely shaken and the motion of the car became very violent. The next moment brought us to a halt when the driver cried "open the door and get out as soon as possible". In another moment we were on the ground and to our surprise one of the horses (the wheel horse) was down and one of the wheels firmly against him. Fortunately ho did not attempt to get up until the car was run back, when with some difficulty he was made to rise. When out we saw the risk we had run, for had we gone five feet further before we stopped we should have been thrown off the rail down into an excavation twelve or fifteen feet deep; the effect of which can be easily imagined.
After reorganizing the team we again mounted the car and were soon in Albany. I had contemplated tarrying a few hours here and resting but was informed that a boat was about to leave for New York City on board of which I immediately concluded to go and in less than half an hour found myself on board the Erie (of Gray) on my way to NYC.
I had been on board but a few moments when I was informed that the Hon. Henry Clay of Kentucky was present. Whenever we hear of distant objects, either men or things, imagination causes us to form some idea of their appearance. So I had pictured to myself the form, the features and address of Mr. Clay. But I confess imagination had been playing a frantic game with me. Had I been requested to have selected him from among the multitude he might have been the last man selected. I had supposed him to be a man of forty in vigor of life and upon whose brow sat the thunder of oratory. Such however was not the appearance.
He is a man of rather large stature, countenance placid and serene, face wrinkled with age and over whose silvery head must have passed the frosts of at least fifty five winters. There is something pleasant and agreeable about him, bows gracefully and shakes you by the hand most cordially.
He was dressed in a green overcoat buttoned tight around him hat and boots, all plain and devoid of ornament. I could not realize that it was he who stood before me who had thundered in our senate, and whose voice and influence exerted such a mighty sway in our senate and in the council of the nation. Mr. Clay must necessarily draw after him a multitude of friends, from his affability, good nature, and readiness to converse with any and every man.
During our way down he was saluted by the firing of cannon and loud huzzas, by the people, who were assembled at the different cities and villages. Mrs. Clay, a son and a grand-son accompanied him. They had made a tour through New England and were now on their way to Washington.
On my way down I was not in general pleased with the appearance of the country on either side of the Hudson. Its scenery is bald and romantic and better calculated to please the eye in summer than in autumn. It now presented, when contrasted with the dying vegetation, a dreary and unpleasant aspect.
At 8 P.M. we entered the city and I put up at the Western Hotel on Cortland St. Thus it will be seen that in three days from the time I left home I arrived in the city of New York, a distance of more than 380 miles. This is making a very quick passage and I doubt whether it has been exceeded by many.
Four days I spent my time in going back and forward from Cortland Street to East River to find a vessel that was going to the South. At length concluded to sail in the Antelope (of Providence) bound for Charleston, SC. Wend on board on the 22nd. but upon being informed by the Capt. that he could not sail until the morrow I concluded to go ashore and tarry for the night.
On the 23rd, again on board and after being kept in suspense all day they concluded not to leave port until another morning.
Sunday 24th weighed Anchor And proceeded through the channel, passing by Governors Island on the left and Gibbet and Staten Islands on the right we sailed along at the rate of three or four knots (or miles) an hour having a fair view of the Jersey shore all day. During the way down we met a great many vessels coming into port from different and distant places and a few vessels which were better sailors passed us.
But to return to New York, to attempt to give a minute description of this city, its fine streets superb buildings and busy multitudes would require an abler pen than mine. Suffice to say that Broadway, the Bowery and probably some other Streets presented a most beautiful appearance. These streets are lined with elegant edifices built of stone or brick from four to six stories and which operative masonry has done honor to herself in erecting. The streets are paved with substantial stone and it is really amusing to stand and see the countless multitude pressing their way right and left, up and down, Broadway.
While here I visited one of the Museums a building of five stories. The second floor is occupied as the first floor of the Museum. This room is filled with all kinds of birds from the Ostrich to the Hummingbird. The third room contained animals from the Elephant to the Mouse and Bat. Fourth floor presented all the genres and species of fishes both seals and shell, the varieties of reptiles and insects from the Whale, Anaconda and Beetle to the sooted trout, small striped snake and most insignificant Bug or Fly. Together with a great variety of implements of war found in different nations, civil and barbarous. Ancient and modern coins and many other natural and artificial curiosities obtained in different parts of the world. I also found the skeleton which was dug up in Salt Peter cave in Virginia. It was about three feet in height (the size of a boy four or five years old) of full grown statue as evidenced by the appearance of the head and face and whose scale was still covered by long fine red hair. Near this I saw the arm and some of the hair of another mummy found within a few miles of the other. It bore a striking resemblance to the former except the hair was a deeper red and more fine.
The fifth and last floor contained two hundred landscape views of countries cities and remarkable places which presented a fine appearance and are said very much resemble their originals.
During my stay in the City I fared sumptuously every day but now having gotten on board the vessel I found the fare very different. We had sea biscuit for bread with salt pork and beef with potatoes. The truth is I soon found out I had not made a judicious selection of vessels but being extremely anxious to be on my journey I had rushed thoughtlessly into the first vessel that was to sail without thinking of their accommodations. The cabin was small and filthy with no room to walk back and forth and warmed only by a sheet iron stove. As if to add to my misfortune we had the most filthy disgusting fellow for a cook I ever saw. He knew no more of cooking than an Orangutan and had grease enough in the seat of his britches equal to ten pounds of pork. The sight of him was sufficient to alley the keenest apatite and almost make one declare he never would eat again.
being to cold to walk on deck (the thermometer stood at 44) I was under
the necessity of sitting cramped up all this day (Sunday the 24th).
The variety of new objects which I saw on the route and in the City kept my mind in a measure from my situation but now having little or nothing new I involuntarily feel a degree of melancholy and am led to exclaim where is my Julie Ann and those two little boys! The lord preserves them whether I see them again or not.
Monday 25th last evening I retired to rest for the first time in life upon the briny deep anticipating that this morning the Captain and myself would have some fun in endeavoring to harpoon a Porpoise (a kind of fish that frequently come along side and jump quite out of the water) as they come near the ship but during the night there came up a storm and I awoke this morning very sea sick. At first I thought I would lie upon my back and prevent vomiting but I had not been in the position long before every effort to prevent proved unavailing and I commenced vomiting with considerable violence. I went on deck but experienced no relief as the constant motion of the vessel on the contrary rather increased it and after tarrying an hour I went down and crept into my berth. Poor fishing thought I if this is the way they catch porpoise deliver me from them.
The wind changed to SW and increased and we were under the necessity of changing our course and run SE then back NW and thus were driven up and down during the day.
Tuesday 26th the storm still continues, the sea very high. With some exertion I got on deck and saw the mighty deep rolling and foaming threatening to engulf our frail bark and all on board. In the midst of the elements I saw a number of Sharks sporting in the water and frequently came along side to jump quite out of the water though we were sailing at the rate of ten miles an hour.
Wednesday the 27th. After tossing about during the night it cleared away in the morning and at noon we took an observation and found ourselves in the Gulf stream twenty six miles north of Cape Hatteras NC. Wind changed to SW. We tacked and sailed NW until we saw the coast of NC at Oaracoke. Turned again and sailed SSE and in the morning found the light house of Cape Hatteras distant fifteen miles west.
Thursday 28th. Continued our course around the Cape until we got past the shoals then stood SW. Today for the first time I was able to go on deck and look about without being giddy or nauseated and the weather being fine & wind fair I began to think I should see Charleston. For the first time in life I had the pleasure of seeing (apparently) the sun arise from and set in the mighty ocean. As if to heighten the scene the full moon arose and moved majestically through the sky gilding the great deep with her silver rays. I now retired to rest with more composure than I had done for several nights before. Cape Hatteras is Lat. 35. 14.
Friday 29th. Our course this day was SW and WSW. It is much warmer today than yesterday which I am told is always the case after passing Cape Hatteras. Thermometer today 64, yesterday 53. It is a fine clear day. Wind NE but gradually dying away so that we make but little progress. Passed Cape Fear near the shoals in 7 fathoms water though we were unable to see the shore. Cape Fear Lat. 33. 48.
Sat. 30th. We are favored with another beautiful day but almost devoid of any wind to carry us to the port of destination. The great deep which so lately raged with such violence is now perfectly calm. Scarce a ripple disturbs its smooth surface and one would think to view it that it would never be agitated again. We amused ourselves by fishing and caught upwards 400 black fish and some Spanish Mackerel.
In the evening (the moon and stars shining beautifully) I sat down upon deck and surveyed the boundless deep before me. When I reflected what a world of water surrounded our little bark and in a few moments might be put in motion by the winds of heaven and swallow us up forever nor friend nor foe hear from us more. I felt a peculiar sensation which can be better imagined than described. I was lead involuntarily to exclaim, Lord preserve us for help alone can come from thee. Thermometer 63. Course W.
Sunday Dec. 1st. The morning found us within forty miles of Charleston having a fine breeze during a part of the night from NW. It however soon died away and left us about 9 AM. We had fondly anticipated seeing Charleston this day and laying our weary heads upon soft pillows but we were disappointed for with our best exertions we were able to get only to the light house seven miles below the city. O when shall I get off this disagreeable ship. Never in my life have I had my patience so tried with poor fare and bad accommodations. For berths we had the most filthy mattresses imaginable. From them issued an odor sufficiently offensive to excite nausea in any one and I presume they had not been turned or washed for months. Alas we are destined to sleep once more upon this filthy boat. Temp. 58.
Monday 2nd. With a gentle breeze was conducted by a pilot up to Charleston passing Sullivan's island and fort Pickney on the right. Upon landing I went to Queens No. 26 and took board and lodging with a Capt. Howard.
I had formed but an imperfect idea of the appearance of this city. Knowing it to be one of the most active commercial ports of the South I supposed it would present an appearance of wealth and grandeur. Such however is not the fact. The houses externally look old and decayed. They are built of course brick on which is a layer of mortar and this pointed into oblong squares intended obviously to imitate hewed stone and from one to three stories in height. Most of them have a piazza in the second story in front. They present a better appearance internally many of them are papered elegantly and furnished in good style. The streets are narrow, irregular and filthy. Few of them being paved and were it not for the sandiness of the soil would be almost impossible it wet weather. The lofty domes and towering spires of NY are not found here though they have a few faint representations of them. King Street is the mercantile part of the city. It is crowded to overflowing with merchandize of almost every description and many of the wares are rich and costly. I saw the most extensive collection of jewelry I think that I have ever met with, but they were considerable dearer than at the North.
The market is not extensive or well supplied. They had plenty of beef and pork but of an inferior quality. Fish few and small. They were Blackfish, Mullet, Trout and Rockfish. Fowls - Turkey (tame and wild), Geese, Hens, Quails, Teal Guinea hen, & Peacock. Of small animals - Rabbit, Gray and black Squirrels, Raccoon & Opossum. Vegetables - Potato, Sweet Potato, Turnip, Tania, Yams, Pumpkin, Onion, Banana, Plantain, Black Radish, Celery, Beets Horse Radish, Leeks, Spinach, Parsley & Hanover Turnip. Nuts - Cocoa, English and American Walnut, Hazelnut, English Butternut & Chestnut. Fruits - Oranges, Lemons, Limes, & Pineapple. Immense quantities of cotton and rice are piled up on the wharfs and in the storehouses which are the principal production of the state. They do not raise sufficient grain for their own consumption and hay is imported from the North for the supply of the city.
I visited a steam mill erected for the purpose of hulling rice. The rice is put into motion upon which is made to play (by the power of steam) as many pestles until the hull is separated from the grain when it is run through Fanning mills and cleaned. Also examined a Steam Saw Mill of twenty five saws which went with great force and cut great quantities of lumber. The legs are hewed square in the country and brought by the river in rafts to be sawed by steam.
Fort Pickney commands the city and is favorably situated for defense. It is built on an artificial island near a quarter of a mile to the East of the City.
When looking from the piazza at the multitude as they pass along one cannot but observe the striking contrast between the inhabitants here and in more northern cities. Here twenty to one are blacks. Most of them were tolerable clad, some were the most miserable beings that I ever beheld. Ragged filthy haggard and worn out, it seemed that the grave would be a desirable refuge for them. You can hardly walk a street without meeting at every step a negro full in the face. But the condition of city blacks, I am told, is far superior to those on plantations. There they are more poorly clad and fed. There they get the refuse from the tables which in most instances answer the demands of nature while here they are denied even this privilege but are stinted to a peck of corn a week. This they bring in large iron (coffee) mills and make it into hominy which has to serve them for a week. Sundays they range about and generally get some kind of wild game which they devour with eagerness. Many of the planters do their own blacksmithing, coopering etc. within themselves all done by the blacks. The price of an able bodied negro is from five to seven hundred dollars and said to be unusually scarce here at present many having been sold and carried to the western states. There are however more or less sold here every week at public or private sale. I saw in one of the city papers no less than seven hundred human beings offered for sale. When will this inhuman traffic cease and the poor black man return to his native soil to breath the air of freedom.
Owing to the controversy growing out of the Tariff there is at present much asperity of feeling toward people from the north. There is no difficulty in getting into a quarrel if one desires it without much exertion on his part and a difficulty that would have to be decided by the dirk or pistol too. Most of the inhabitants go armed and are in ready for any emergency which may call forth the exercise of their pugilistic muscles.
being able to find a vessel going to St. Augustine we tarried six days
in Charleston when on the evening of the 7th we embarked on board of
the Soy. Smith master. After sailing an hour or more, the wind breezing
ahead we tacked and returned to the city. Charleston Lat. 32 46.
Sunday December the 8th. weighed anchor and with a fine breeze put to sea. This has been a delightful day and we have made good progress and hope that by tomorrow we shall be safely moored in the harbor of St. Augustine.
Monday 9th. The morning was agreeable but in the afternoon the wind increased, the heavens became black with clouds and rain began to descend in copious showers. In the evening the St.Augustine light house to leeward some eight or ten miles but the wind increased to a gale so that it was impossible to enter the harbor. We were driven far south in the vicinity of the Bahamas where we were tossed about by the violence of the waves for five succeeding days and were obliged to run into the Gulf stream (which here runs to the N.E. at the rate of five miles per hour) to prevent being driven on shore. I never until now had any conception of the violence of the waves in a powerful storm. If the waves were not mountainous high they were at least like hills between which were deep valleys. Now we went up toward heaven now down low into the great deep. The dashing of the waves against the vessel produced the sound like that of a heavy mallet struck violently against its sides, and seemed as if the plank and timbers must give way. The dashing of the waves over the deck for over two days was almost incessant and the water frequently came down the companion way into the cabin to the no small terror of the passengers. There was general sea sickness on board and I was confined to my berth for three days with nausea and vomiting.
During the continuing of the gale it was very doubtful how it would terminate with us. The captain himself became alarmed for the fate of the crew and vessel and we all at one time were at the point of concluding that we would see land no more. Providence however favored us and after loosing the gig boom and some of the sails the gale began to abate and wind shifted to the SW. It had not remained in that direction over an hour before it became very violent so that when we again arrived in sight of St. Augustine we were unable to enter the harbor.
On the morning of the 15th however we again for the third time stood off port joyfully anticipating that we should soon set foot on land again. We passed within the breakers and were congratulating ourselves upon our safe arrival when suddenly through the carelessness of the pilot we ran aground, one mile from the wharf, when taking to the boat we all landed safe at the pier in the harbor of St. Augustine happy and thankful that we had escaped the dangers of the sea.
St. Augustine is situated in Lat. 29 5LN. and is the capitol of E. Florida. It is located on a little eminence on the west side of the bay two miles from the sea and almost surrounded by water. The soil is sand and shell formed by the ocean. The appearance of the city is unpleasant. It is built after the Spanish style having few or no windows in the front of the houses. The back side generally has a large supply of windows through which you have a fair view of the back yard filled with orange trees irregularly planted about the city. The materials for building are a kind of stone formed of small sea shell cemented together and adhere with much firmness. They are plastered within and without to hide their roughness. The houses are from one to two stories high and mostly appear old and rough.
Anastasia Island lies between the city and the ocean and is a barren waste producing little else than moss and prickle pear. In the city there are a Catholic Church, an Episcopalian, a Presbyterian, a Baptist and a Methodist chapel. When in possession of the Spaniards the city contained considerable wealth which those that emigrated carried with them to Cuba. It has now the appearance of poverty, and were it not for the orange groves, the fish that is caught on the coast, and the money which they annually fleece from invalids I cannot see how they could possibly live. It is a healthy place and for a southern climate no doubt a delightful summer residence being fanned diurnally by the trade winds which sets in every morning from the ocean. Numbers of poor fellows like myself resort here annually with bright hopes and fond anticipations of being restored to health again. Few are benefited, but by the greater number die here or retain barely sufficient strength to return home and expire on the bosom of their friends. The benefit a consumptive is to derive by a residence here has been much overrated. They are led to suppose by representation given of the climate that if they can but get here they can certainly recover no matter in what stage of the disease they are. Stimulated by the idea they brave the ocean and the hardships and privations of voyage to lay their bones in a distant land. A circular issued by Dr. Anderson of St. Augustine to the consumptive invalids of United States is filled with gross misrepresentations. It is there stated that the atmosphere of Florida produces an exhilarating effect which by operating as a constant stimulus to the lungs has effected remarkable cures. Now this is as false as the Alcoran. No exhilarating effect is produced at least on any other than the Doctor and on him only in imagination at the prospect of receiving some cash upon the arrival of the sick.
The only benefit in my estimation to be derived by a visit to Florida is the good resulting from a voyage at sea and the increased temperature of the atmosphere during the winter when compared with more northern latitudes. The thermometer generally ranges between fifty and seventy-five so that the sick can take exercise in the open air. While in the Eastern and Middle states at the same time it is below zero.
Visited Fort Marion, an old Spanish fortress situated at the northern extremity of the town. It is built in a square form of shell rock with walls thirty feet in height and in thickness. In the center is a large hollow square for the mustering of soldiers. These rooms are fifteen or twenty feet square and communicate with each other. In one place are several rooms which are occupied as dungeons and are perfectly dark, those within not being able to distinguish between day and night. Recently there have been discovered other dungeons more remote, the doors to which were walled up. Upon being opened they were found to contain human skeletons, supposed to have been walled in when living and suffered to parish with hunger. This wall is surrounded by a ditch ten feet deep into which water could be let from the sea with pleasure. The whole is encompassed by an external wall tipped with palisades which communicate with the gate in the internal wall with a draw-bridge. From the fort a ditch and a stockade extended around on the west side of the city to the bay on the south but they are now in ruins. Government has about forty soldiers here, quartered in barracks in the Southern part of the city.
Thursday 19th. Left St. Augustine for Mandarin. The country for five miles back of the city is the most perfect desert I have ever seen. Nothing but a few scrub pine fifteen or twenty feet high with here and there a Palmetto is to be seen. The whole route presents the same appearance except the pines increase in size and height until you strike the river St. John. Arrived at Mandarin towards evening a distance of thirty five miles from St. Augustine. It is a small place consisting of only four or five dwellings, one store and post-office from which it takes its name.
Friday 20th. Crossed over to St. John to Joshua Hickman's at Mulberry Grove where I concluded to reside for the winter. The St. John is a noble river and from either side presents a beautiful prospect. It runs here to the north until it gets to Jacksonville ten miles below where it turns to the east and continues that course until it empties itself into the ocean twenty miles below. It is two hundred miles long and from three to fifteen wide. Florida, from what I can observe and learn of others is one vast plain of sand, situated from fifty to an hundred and fifty feet above the sea. Underneath this sand, in many places is found a kind of red clay and then sand again until you get to the depth of from twenty to fifty feet when you strike a solid limestone. The soil is extremely thin and light even on the border of the rivers and back to a quarter to half mile in one extensive pine tangle, too poor ever to admit of cultivation.
The productions of the territory are Cotton, Sugar Cane, Rice and Oranges. The former is exported in small quantities, the latter in great numbers. The fertility of the territory is confined to the hummock land which lies on the rivers and their tributaries. The pine barren is of no value except the timber which consists of yellow pine and in little depressions a species of Cypress. Most of the pine is too small to be sawed into lumber and serves only as fuel. The timber on the hummock is Live Oak, Bay, Holly, Gum, two species of Ash, Hickory, Magnolia, Sour Orange and Chickpea. These form some of the handsomest groves in the world. To the natural covering of the trees (the leaves) is added a kind of moss from five to twelve feet in length which hangs from all the trees and entirely prevents the rays of the sun from penetrating through them. One can sit here at noonday and find the coolness pleasant and refreshing. The Magnolia is a beautiful evergreen. It has blossoms a foot in diameter and emits a fragrant odor which perfumes the air for some distance around it. The mistletoe is found here and is a very singular plant. It grows under the bark of other trees and appears in the tops of them among their branches presenting an appearance entirely different from the tree on which they grow. The Palmetto (a species of palm) grows in abundance all over the pine barren and hammock. It is from two to twelve feet in height with leaves resembling a fan when spread. The cabbage tree (another specie) is found occasionally. It grows fifty or sixty feet in height, has no limbs but a set of leaves at the top when young is cut and pickled and resembles cabbage.
Here are found most of our birds of passage which resort here to avoid a northern winter. Besides those there are several kinds which are not found in the northern or eastern states. Among these are the Turkey Buzzard and Paroquet, Redbird, a bluish Mockingbird, Pelican etc. The animals are nearly the same as in New York. They have the Opossum, an animal whose head resembles the raccoon, its body like that of the porcupine and tail like a rat. It has a false belly into which its young run when frightened. The reptiles differ some from those found in the northern latitudes. There is found the Alligator in abundance. Some of them from fifteen to eighteen feet in length. The St. Johns is literally alive with them. From my window I can distinctly count a dozen and frequently more floating along on the surface of the water with their heads just above it. Almost every day they come about the wharf within fifty feet of the house. I succeeded in shooting one a few days ago by getting between him and the water as he lay on the beech sunning himself. They occasionally do mischief by catching calves and pigs etc. and have sometimes caught young negroes. There are abundance of Lizards, Scorpions, and Zantipes(?) all of which are poisonous.
Joshua Hickman with whom I reside is a planter. He has two thousand Acres of land under improvement which is wrought by fifty slaves of both sexes and all ages. Heretofore he has raised cotton but recently he has turned his attention to sugar-making. The land is worked altogether with the hoe instead of the plow. Each negro has his daily task (which is a quarter acre) to dig up with his hoe if he is a full hand, if a half hand, half that quantity etc. This plantation in 1832 produced sixty bales of Sea Island cotton valued at 5,000 dollars.
The slaves here are allowed the same quantity of food that they are in South Carolina, Georgia and the Southern States generally. Viz. one peck of corn per week. It is incredible the amount of labour they are capable of performing with so little nourishment but they require constant watching and urging. The slave holder is under the necessity of overseeing in person his slaves. He is himself a perfect slave to his negroes. Most of them, however, have overseers to whom they give a salary of five or seven hundred dollars per annum and themselves live easy and spend their time in the various amusements of the day.
The manners and customs of the inhabitants differ with different individuals. The original settlers are like all back woodsman, rude and uncouth in their manners. They are called Crackers from the fact of their cracking their corn by hand for their bread stuff (hominy). Since the session of Florida to the States many from the Carolinas and Georgia have settled here and have brought with them their customs and habits. The entertainment at pleasure parties among the best families from what I have observed is nearly as follows : you are first served with meat, which is first boiled, then baked, with yams, tangerines etc. The table is then cleared and cake and preserves are presented. The cloth is now removed and you are furnished with nuts, raisins etc. If it is a dinner you are served with wine and brandy. If breakfast or supper with coffee.
The state of society in some respects is unpleasant. Many of the inhabitants are armed with dirks or sword-canes and killing or wounding with these are not infrequent. A short time since the Mayor of Pensacola was shot dead while walking in the street in open day. Last week two individuals who live on the opposite side of the river from me, while quarreling one of them shot the other by discharging a gun at him loaded with buck shot which lodged in his right side and will undoubted kill him. And more recently a dead body was found in a small stream of water near Jacksonville, who was murdered. Dueling is not infrequent, the parties sometimes fighting to desperation. It is very common to hear this expression, "God damn him, I will shoot him" which at the north would sound very harsh, but here no notice is taken of it.
An amusing occurrence happened at Jacksonville not long since. A young fellow walking with a young lady (to whom it would seem from some conversation which afterwards occurred, he was engaged to be married) took offence at her flirting her handkerchief at another gentleman who was walking behind them with a partner because she felt gay and airy and thought no harm. He immediately drops her arm and walks alone. After walking a few rods the gentleman with whom she was to play, in the true spirit of gallantry makes her an offer to walk with him and marches off with a girl at each arm. The other man quickens his pace and arrives at the village before them, arms himself with a pistol and dirk and when they arrive gave chase to the poor girl, crying "God damn you, I will shoot you". The affrighted girl takes refuge in the first house she came too followed hard by her lover who, in his rage, forgot to shoot as she entered the door, though he was not ten feet behind her, She ran into a small room and was barred by the mistress of the house while he raved about, declaring that he would shoot her and then stab himself. Poor cowardly soul. If she had turned at him he would not dare have shot her, unless it was with a leather gun. Many of these people are so emotional , and for the minute are apt to do anything. The next day, however, all breaches were healed, and the courtship, I am told, goes on as before Such is a specimen of their love affairs. This is an example of the pace and stress under which people live in the south.
The climate of Florida in winter is mild and pleasant when compared with New York or New England. There is occasionally a frost and I am told by the gentleman with whom I reside that it once snowed (1828) an hour or two, since he has lived here. The frosts are always light, the thermometer never to have been known to have been lower than 26. Here as at the North the atmosphere is subject to great changes in a short time. On the 21st of January in the course of two hours it fell from 77 to 52 but so great an alteration in as short a period is unusual. As yet there has been but two frosts. These were on the evenings of the 1st and 8th of January.
Feb. 1st. Peaches and Plumb trees in blossom and those trees which are not evergreen are beginning to leave out. All the vegetation has assumed a more lively hue. Birds of passage are beginning to leave and everything seems to betoken spring.
I too, must be off for old Ontario.
Sunday March 23rd. I have been ready to leave for home for several days and anxiously await the arrival of a vessel that has gone up river. Having become impatient I concluded this day to leave Mulberry Grove and go down the river to Jacksonville. We left in the morning and as I passed Black Point which hid the Grove from view I felt melancholy and taking a last view said "farewell, we meet no more". There being some of us in a small canoe and waves quite high I felt very unpleasant until we arrived. But meeting at the wharf my friend D. Casort who was waiting my arrival and ready for home I felt a degree of consolation. Put up with a Mrs. Mills who keeps a boarding house on Main St.
Friday February 28th. Having waited with some impatience for the arrival of a vessel up the river we had the pleasure yesterday of seeing one come down bound for Charleston. We stayed on board of the George and Mary, Charles Wiley master, and weighing anchor proceeded down the river twenty miles when it became dark and we stopped for the night.
The journal ends here for some reason. Dr. Pratt was 33 years old at the time and his wife Julia Ann (Smith) was 26. Her mother and father, Andrew and Rebecca Smith , with whom they lived were 57 and 56. He writes as if he went south for his health, but he lived to bury his wife and children by her. His 2nd wife, Minerva and their one son, Carlton, alone out lived him.
journal, from the hand of Dr. Pratt, was given to me to read by his son
Carlton, and fortunately I made a copy. A few years later the Pratt
house burned with everything in it, including the journal. C.B.H.
Back to Hopewell
Burr at work and play