"American Tour 1871"

 Oct 16th to Oct 31st

16th Oct.

Left Niagra Falls for Buffalo at 2.45. I am surprised at the size of this city. In our rambles towards the shore of lake we came to a corn mill, the manager of which is English and was most polite to us. Much struck with Delaware St which is one of the finest in the States being 4 miles long and 50 yds wide in which there is nothing but Gentlemen’s residences and these of a very superior style. As we were returning to the centre of the city near a handsome circus, where 8 large streets culminate we saw a steam fire engine dash across, the horses at full gallop, we followed as fast as our legs would carry us and came up to the scene of the fire and it surprised us to see several other fire engines with steam up arrive on the spot from all points of the compass. These machines are superbly finished and kept as bright as possible the silvering is lavishly put on and they seem beautiful as toys, but their efficiency has been well tested. The fire was soon subdued and we entered into conversation with one of the officials who answered our questions with the greatest of politeness and then introduced us to the superintendent who invited us to accompany them to the station. The office was admirably fitted up a labyrinth of electric wires and signal bells. He carefully explained to us their superior telegraphic system. In each district there is a telegraph post with a small box the key of which is to be found in the nearest house, here there is communications with the electric bells in the office, the first communication rings the big alarm bell and then it gives the number of the district and the street (streets all go by number not name). The buggy with the fast looking horse stood at the door, we got in and drove to the Volunteer Fire Brigade Office, each office for the several districts is manned by 25 young gentlemen of the city, 5 of whom are alternatively on duty day and night. Their dormitory was very snug, beautifully furnished and clean, the drawing room was capacious well furnished and decorated. In the room below were fire engine appliances all of exquisite finish and beauty. The volunteers seem gentlemanly fellows they are allowed nothing more towards the expenses of their station than the salary of their door keeper. Then with a ‘lets liquor up’ we pledged each others health in lager beer. In thanking them for their great kindness they replied that Americans always felt a pleasure in showing their English cousins all the attention they could, but that they thought we in England had got it into our heads that the Yankees hated us and were always trying to gain an advantage over us! There were no fewer than 8 alarms in a day in Buffalo and we were almost afraid that this city was about to follow the sad example of Chicago, the news of which calamity will have reached you by this time.

20th Oct.

Arrived Cleveland at 6 am by the midnight express from Buffalo I like this town better than any I have visited in the States from Euclid Avenue 5 miles long lined with beautiful trees one gets a very extensive view of Lake Eerie. At 7.20 pm we again made our way to the station took sleeping berths to Chicago where we arrived at 6 am.  

                                

"The great fire of Chicago 1871"

21st Oct.

In our drive to the New Sherman Hotel we had several of the ruins pointed out to us by an eye witness of and sufferer of the fire. The first sight of the ruined city was truly appalling so completely had the conflagration drowned this thriving place with its costly and colossal buildings.

After a hurried breakfast we rambled thro the ruins the sky was cloudless, the sun scorching hot and clouds of dust were awful by a light breeze from the scorched pavements, which caused much pain to the eyes. But what words can describe the scene which met our gaze on every side, the gaunt skeletons of stately edifices stood out in ghostly relief against the clear sky here and there the tottering lofty cable Michigan Avenue composed mostly of beautiful buildings is now entirely swept away. Here and there you could trace by the debris articles sold in the stores and in the case of private residences by the iron work utensils used in a household, steel springs from the mattresses which are almost universal here. Now the bones of a domestic animal a remnant of a birdcage shoes of a horse which suggested to me unknown agonies of unwilling and ill fated captors. Human life has all been here sacrificed, how many none can tell. The survivors tell of Herculean efforts of those who strove with the might of desperation to subdue the destroying elements and who at last had to succour to exhausted nature and to relentless destroying elements. Then but too willingly and immediately they drank the intoxicating drinks, which were foolishly offered them and which soon rendered them hopelessly drunk, their wives and children clinging around them trying to drag them out of their dangerous position, sometimes successful and alas sometimes in vain. Some sought safety in flight, others perished on the spot, for the fire driven by the wind spread with amazing rapidity. A few houses have been left ‘ as braids plucked from the burning’ standing solitary amidst surrounding ruin and unthinkable desolation. Were the whole of Oldham with its every house and shop and mile laid level by fire, it could not form a third part of what the eye can see here. And how many sad episodes was my sympathetic heart touched by the highly respectable appearance of those who sought their daily portion of food at the relief rooms, of those who claimed the free railway passes to be enabled to leave their ruined city or those occupying wooden huts and tents being burnt out of their houses. The look of agony of the lonely widow. Led to the site of the building, which was his only source of income, the desperate fierce look of the ruined merchant a sadder sight I never looked upon! As far as the eye could reach was ruin and desolation and destruction! Gay wicked profligate Chicago now no more, God help the ruined and desolate. I am glad to see from the papers that our English towns are responding nobly to the cause.

I must not omit to tell you a piece of Yankee cuteness I heard of, The old Sherman House Hotel was amongst the first destroyed, the cunning proprietor drove at an early stage of the fire to the house of a gentleman who had built a large hotel, in a part of Chicago untouched by the fire, for 2 years he had been unable to let either for hotel or store, without mentioning the fire the hotel keeper succeeded in obtaining the block of building at great sacrifice to the owner, it was quickly filled with furniture from the old house and was thus ready for visitors when many families were without homes. Imagine the chagrin of the late owner! A walk on this side of the city was interesting so many good shops, warehouses etc had been erected in advance of the need, but this calamity revealed the success of the enterprise. We saw a great many wooden huts which had been quickly put up to receive the homeless poor. Geo Francis Train has just taken his quarters at the Sherman House, his presence there loudly enough proclaimed by large white letters on black portmanteaux, he was speechifying to a low Irish audience. We had to walk to the station and drag our baggage along as we could.

22nd Oct.

Arrived at St Louis 6 am thus making the third night we had passed in the cars.

Soon after dawn we arrived at E St Louis and we embarked in a stage coach and four and were driven to the ferry steamer, a huge double boat with the paddle working in the centre. Four other coaches like ours came on, besides carts , wagons, horses in saddle and buggy besides a huge brewers dray with 4 stalwart horses. We were soon on the other side of the Missisippi at West St Louis.

After a hot bath and clean shirt which were a real luxury and good breakfast at Barnums Hotel we passed the day in seeing the lions of the city.

This city and Chicago were considered rivals having the same population ( 300,000), this is a very pretty, prosperous and well built town, containing many fine streets, colossal warehouses and beautiful parks and gardens. But I fancy it must have been a rival to Chicago in another respect, wickedness of both rich and poor, general profligacy, drunkenness and wholesale corrupting vices. It is shocking to see the desecration of the Sabbath, shops open, bustle going on, billiard halls and other vicious saloons in full swing. In no city on the European Continent have I ever seen such a comparison to a quiet English Sunday.

23rd Oct.

Visited the horse and mule show, tell Harold there are such big mules here! 17 hands high nearly all the horses are his favourite colour chestnut. Visited the quays and looked thro several of the steamboats trading between this port and Memphis and New Orleans. Our first view of the ‘Father of Waters’ was disappointing. The steamboat (stern wheeler) ‘Oceanus’ was likely to start first and make the best passage on account of the low state of the Missisippi, her small proportions and light draft being an advantage. Paid our passage money twelve and a half dollars and were told to be on board at 4 pm and we should arrive in Memphis in 48 hours – Alas for our English credulity! And the utter falseness of the Yankee purser!

To begin with the Yankee Irish porter acting in collusion with the nigger porter, made an extortionate demand for bringing the luggage on board, which we refused to pay, there followed a terrible row but we remained firm, two men left as they said for a policeman, but the Blackie soon returned and reduced his demand fifty per cent which we paid. Then we did not start ‘til 8 pm and then only to cross to East St Louis where we took several hundred bags of grain on board which came down an immensely long shoot rather more rapidly than the niggers could stow them away tho they were urged to their utmost by a fine specimen of the old slave driver in the person of a dandy man ‘Randy Jim of Carolina’. These taken on board we to our intense disgust were taken back to West St Louis, the clerk provokingly asking us to take care of the ship whilst he went to the theatre! Passed a most uncomfortable night – our beds must be composed of branches of trees with a few dry crackling leaves. Made my first acquaintance with mosquitoes and very horrible did their shrill, shriek buzzing sound in my shattered ears make. Thinking to give my enemy a mortal blow I planted a sharp and stunning one on my very own ear instead which rang again with the blow and my little enemy escaped to torment me the night through.

 

24th Oct.

The saloon of this boat is a long one, on the 2nd deck the further end is set apart for the ladies, their state rooms being on each side. After breakfast we watched a little more cargo stowed then were rejoiced to see the stern wheel revolve and set us on our course ‘Down South’. The first sight of the Mississippi is disappointing the innumerable bends in the river giving a limited view ahead whilst the width does not appear very great. The scenery for the most part is dull and wanting in variety, consisting chiefly of puny forest trees covering immense tracts of swampy land. This monotony however is occasionally relieved by a little rocky scenery that sometimes assumes fantastic shapes. Our journey was rendered very tiresome by the slow progress rendered imperative by the low state of the Mississippi and her tributaries. The two men stationed at her bows amused us by their singing out the soundings alternatively to the Pilot in a drawling nasal twang ‘eight feet six and a half scant and all the scale from 10ft down to the satisfactory report ‘no bottom’. When we approached a bank or bar in the river very primitive methods were adopted, sometimes all the crew and deck passengers were collected at the stern of the boat, by which her bows were elevated as soon as she got half over three men made their way to the bows and so tilted the stern over and then they would let her drift to the bar and allow the current to bring her broadside on. When she would keel over a little and so her keel would dip over the obstruction. At distance we had an opportunity of seeing our fellow passengers, but had no occasion to rejoice in their company, they created disgust at table – the knife being used much too freely, both in conveying the food to mouth, cutting butter and taking salt and mustard. And their clothes, linen.. Bah .. filthy past expression or belief. We were sickened by this and the queasy food set before us.

At 6.30 we drew up at Chester a city of half a dozen shanties and a steam corn mill, we took more grain. Our captain decided to lay alongside till daylight

25th Oct

After rather a better nights rest having had mosquito bars put up for my protection went thro my ablutions and went on deck and found a dense fog that delayed our start and notwithstanding the usual precautions grounded several times. A few miles further we stopped at Marble City and embarked a large family of Kentuckians with all their worldly goods, 5 horses, dogs, wagon etc they have left their farm in Kentucky to go to one in Texas 1600 miles away, 700 of these have been made in their covered wagon which has now been hoisted on the top deck above the saloon 5 horses dogs and besides the family which consists of grandmother her two sons with their wives and families besides farm servants from the presence of a side saddle some of the ladies evidently ride. Their wagon cover looks very thin and the rain coming down in torrents and they will all make themselves up for the night under it. The storm is gaining most furiously upon us in the fast advancing twilight, the magnificent sheets of lightning, the like of which I never saw before making the heavens look aglow, with a fiery furnace of liquid light, the sight is magnificent.

We expected to reach Cairo tonight but shall not do so till the morning. We also took on board several more horses and buggies belonging to merchants who wish to give their tired animals a rest to the next city, the docility of these horses is pleasing to see, they walked on board like Christians but horses in America as a rule are treated kindly and rationally. We drew up to some stakes at dusk and made fast. I landed and had a walk into the forest with a Spaniard and Mexican horse dealer. Our walk was very solitary the stillness terrible, a beautiful moonlight night succeeded the storm and the male portion of the planter’s family slept on deck with their faces up turned regardless of moonstroke.

26th Oct.

Started at 6 am and stopped at a large wooden barge, saw a little girl nursing a kitten who reminded me of little Edith. Took some cotton on board from a cotton gin. Called at Cairo I landed to post letters, it’s dreadfully hot. A busy scene presents itself, numerous steamers from the Ohio loading and discharging, admire the little screw tug boats am amused at their thrusting impudence. Started again and soon came to the confluence of the Ohio by which boats ascend to Cincinatti and Pittsburgh, the bends of the river are now more varied and interesting, moored at dusk.

27th Oct.

Started at 6 am called to take on board some old fashioned looking settlers, old yellow and gaunt in long blue coats. Our steamer is now literally crammed with all sorts of merchandise flour, cotton, grain, cattle, furniture. All the passages being blocked up, enjoyed a solitary promenade on the top deck in the bright cloudless moonlit night the volumes of white steam looked beautiful as did the boat and surrounding scenery.

28th Oct.

A splendid morning with promise of a scorching day, pity the poor turkeys and chickens who seem to suffer from the intense heat being very sparingly supplied with water or food being on the top deck they are frequently singed by the sparks from the two smoke stacks. Took on board some more cotton and at 1.30 sighted and soon afterwards landed at Memphis Tennesee. Parted with our fellow passengers with gladness. One of the women was a …?. And her husband was a rough rider and we had also 3 rough specimens of the Texan cattle dealers they had been to Washington with a herd of cattle all the way from Texas per road and cross Prairie. One of them had broken his leg on the journey and his comrades had nursed him with almost a woman’s solitude and tenderness, we were all thankful to escape from this high pressure Mississippi boat with whole skins and no broken bones. She carries 130ft pressure to the sq inch her boiler runs along and under the saloon, the engines are horizontal placed on each side of the boat and the connecting rods are of wood enormously long, to reach the paddle wheels right astern. Surrounding the boiler on all side were stowed barrels of flour, wooden furniture dangerous to think of! (This steamer ‘Oceanus’ exploded her boiler above Cairo 2 months later and 45 out of sixty souls perished,)

Drove to Brenton House (our hotel) took a last not longing look at the Mississippi as it continued it’s tortuous course southward like some hideous monster. I agree with Dickens in feeling glad that this ‘Father of waters’ has no children like itself. Had a joyous meeting with J W, Cl, and JB who arrived by rail.

29th Oct.

Here we are really in the sunny south! A cloudless deep blue sky such as I never saw before, a hot sun and a genial atmosphere rather hotter than our July. I feel more at home here than since leaving England, the Southerners seem kind and considerate to all, ladies and gentlemen look at one with a kind frankness that the detestable Yankee never does. To call a Southerner ‘Yankee’ would be to wound his dearest susceptibilities. Here ladies and children particularly have quite an English home look about them. Mr Patton is a kind and genial man and a countryman of our own. We are together now except Johnson who is on his way to San Francisco. Have been twice at church today with Mr Paton and in the afternoon visited Central Park to feed the squirrels who are so tame as to climb up on your knee or shoulder for a nut.

30th Oct.

Went with Mr Paton around the cotton market and was much interested in going thro the factors offices. The cotton is generally kept sampled on long wooden tables called trays, the better grades of each classification, being kept at the top nearest the light. To get to the samples you must make your own way thro a labyrinth of goods that supply the planter with all sorts of commodities in account current for his cotton.

Hog heads of rum, gin, whisky brandy, armies of bottles, tallow, bacon, treacle, butter, boots, shoes, calico, broadcloth, flour, tea, coffee, tobacco etc, these factors are quite as cute as any ‘Down Basters’ and one rejoicing in the name of Napoleon Smith replied to my question about some cotton being grown in Arkansas “ Stranger I guess you mean Ark an Saw which is this pronunciation of the place” I bought some cotton and as much interested to see the bales out in the cotton press, these machines are hydraulic and squeeze a bale in a frightful way to behold with a horrible crunching sound not mitigated on being informed that a nigger handled their teams of 4 and 6 in hand cotton wagons, only I deplored their impudence in persistently keeping on the tramway to our great loss of time and felt grieved to see how cruelly they treated these splendid mules. In our country walks it grieved me sorely to see the raw wounds on the shoulder, back and mouth of these animals and it is not an exception to find mules with their tongues partially severed by the uncontrolled savagery of the Negro, who enjoys a freedom he’s not yet prepared for or either educated to.

A great institution of Memphis is the ‘scavenger pig’, these animals vigilantly and effectively undertake the scavenging duties of the city and it is amusing to see the earnest manner in which they prosecute their ‘gutter investigations’, and the jealousy they display if a brother porker invades their beat. At night they jog home with complacent grunts.

Our party was much chuffed in the ‘Memphis Argus’ by styling us millionaires and baronets etc and our arrival and doings were announced in the most absurd manner.

Dined with Mr P at a restaurant roasted squirrels were served on toast, but I could not eat the poor little things I had fed on my shoulder the day before.  

"Cotton yard"

31st Oct.

Went to a cotton pressing establishment and a cotton seed place, the cotton was most interesting and never did I see the saying ‘gather up the fragments that nothing be lost’ better carried. They keep the seed ginned out of the cotton by the planters which is delivered to them in bags, it is cleaned of what little cotton adheres to it, it then goes thro other manipulations and is at last crushed into meal which is steamed in a cauldron after which it is put into bags and passed thro hydraulic presses. The oil is thus pressed out and the meal is formed into large oil cakes that are shipped over to the Old Country for feeding cattle. Out of 50lbs of meal they get about 3 gallons of oil, which amongst its other qualities is esteemed as a salad oil. The husks and of the seed make splendid fuel for their boilers.

Tell Harold and Edie that as I was returning to my hotel in the dusk ( it goes dark quite suddenly) I heard some children singing ‘Shall we gather at the river’. I turned back to look and found some little children both white and black singing together and very beautiful it was. Tom Walker got some other little nigger children running races for cents and one little fellow began to cry because his twin brother had won the race, so we had to give him another chance they were about five years old.

 November 3rd to December 13th

 

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