The following travelogue, taken from “Visit to the Falls of Niagara in 1800,” was originally published in London in 1826 by John Maude. It was transcribed by Hudson River Maritime Museum volunteer researcher George A. Thompson and additionally edited and annotated by John Warren.
New York, Saturday, June 21st, 1800
5½ p. m. Embarked on board the Sloop Sally, Captain Peter Donnelly, seventy tons, four hands, viz. the Captain, his brother Andrew, John, who was on board Admiral De Winter’s Ship on the memorable 11th October, 1797, and Nicholas, a free black acting as steward, cook, cabin-boy, &c. had purchased his own freedom and that of his wife, hoping soon to effect that of his children; performs well on the violin, and is very smart. Twenty-four passengers, not births for more than half. Passage two dollars each. Board and liquors, as may happen. Principal passengers, General Alleser, of New York, violent democrat; Caul, of Saratoga, ditto; Mr. Mousley, warm aristocrat and federalist; Mr. Putnam, Mr. Williams, Lieutenant Kipp, all three federalists; the youth Octavius, son of Timothy Pickering, Esq. late Secretary of State, under the care of Messrs. Williams and Putnam, both relations of Mr. Pickering; Jonas, of Montreal, Grocer; —— of Michillinnackinac; a drunken, Scotch Presbyterian Minister; Mr. Sanger, &c. &c.; four rafts-men, and a man and his wife from Staten Island.
7 p. m. Unmoored; fine S. E. breeze; ten knots.
8 p. m. Breeze slackened.
Midnight; cast anchor twenty-five miles from New York, entrance of Tappan Bay, not wind to stem the ebb. In the night, severe storm of thunder, lightning and rain. Not finding a birth unoccupied, or scarcely one that did not contain two persons, the Captain gave me his own state room.
Sunday, June 22d.
5 a. m. Turned out, got under weigh: Tappan Bay, or Sea, five miles wide and ten long; extremities marked by two remarkable high bluffs; scarcely a breath of air; fog on the high banks of the bay; heavy rain; fell calm when opposite to Tarry-Town.
10 a. m. Sun broke out and light airs from the north; beat slowly through the Tappan to Haverstraw-Bay, six miles side, ten long. Stakes in the river for the convenience of taking Shad. Sturgeons constantly leaping out of the water. Shewn the field from whence the three youths first descried Major [John] André [conspirator with Benedict Arnold]: and the large white-wood tree under which he was examined.
2 p. m. Cast anchor; took boat and landed at the ferry-house opposite to Mount Pleasant, thirty-six miles from New York; river here four miles wide. Climbed the mountains to visit a lake on the opposite side; large, considerably above the level of the Hudson; pike, yellow bass, and sun-fish. Strawberries on its banks. Much chat with Betsy, who, born at the foot of the mountain and apparently secluded from the world, said she had been a great traveler, “once to the meeting and twice to the mill.”
7 p. m, Got under weigh; light airs from the north; progress trifling. Came to an anchor in the Horse-race, foot of St. Anthony’s Nose; river half a mile wide, channel from forty to fifty fathoms wide three miles above Peekskill, and forty-eight from New York; turned in at 11 p.m.
Monday, June 23d.
Turned out at 4 a. m. Sketched a view of Fort Clinton, Fort Montgomery, St. Anthony’s Nose, the Bear Mountain and surrounding scenery; highly romantic and beautiful, being the entrance of the Highlands; to the south very extensive and pleasing prospect down through Haverstraw to Tappan Bay; dense fog on the lower part of Fort Clinton, Fort Montgomery and St. Anthony’s; the site of Fort Clinton is now occupied by the handsome dwelling-house of Mr. Ducet [Doucet], a french gentleman; dreary situation and without society.
5 a. m. Took boat and landed on a small Island; filled a cask with excellent water, picked up some drift wood, and got a pitcher of milk for breakfast.
8 a. m. Returned and explored the Island; strange serpentine form; rocks and marsh; much scrub wood; four kinds of huckleberries, the swamp huckleberry, a tall shrub like the alder, an excellent fruit just beginning to ripen; the other still green; could only gather a few strawberries, the season being past. Laurel and Prickly Pear in blossom; the flower of the first, white with red spots, shaped like the convolvulus [Morning Glory]; that of the Prickly Pear, yellow and in appearance like the bloom of the melon and cucumber. Gathered the root of Sarsaparilla and a branch of Spice wood, this latter is a great sweetener of the blood and a pleasant flavor; flushed a pair of partridges or pheasants; though these birds more resemble Grouse than Partridge of Pheasant, I may here observe that the animals of America differ materially from those of the Old Continent, yet for want of more appropriate designations, they frequently receive the names of such European animals as they most resemble; but these names are by no means settled; for instance, what are known as Partridges in one part of the Country are called Quails in another, and these birds will alight in Trees, or on Paling [a fence]. The Hares have white flesh. I have been informed that some Sporting Gentlemen have imported the English Red Fox as affording better diversion that the native Grey; and that although the Red Fox is the smaller animal it is the more ferocious, and is eating-out the Grey one.
9 a. m. Got under weigh; head wind.
1 p. m. L—— Mills, are superior to most in construction and situation, and very profitable; four pair of stones; fifty-five miles from New York; the Miller takes down a cargo of flour and returns with wheat.
3 p. m. Landed at West Point, the Gibraltar of America; centre of the Highlands; fifty-eight miles from New York.
9 p. m. Got under weigh; having no wind, drifted with the tide, boat a-head towing.
10½ p. m. Light southerly breeze; turned the Scotch Presbyterian Minister out of the cabin and put him into the hold. This man had given himself up to dram-drinking, which kept him in a continual state of intoxication, so that he never left his birth but for a few moments; his legs had running sores, which, being neglected, were offensive to such a degree, that the passengers had determined to pass the night on deck, unless he were put below.
11 p. m. Passed Butter-Hill, and the Face Mountain, the last of the [Hudson] Highlands.
11½ p. m. Turned in; the cabin being by this time tolerably ventilated.
Tuesday, June 24th.
4 a. m. Turned out opposite Barnegat [Dutchess County] and its lime-kilns, twenty miles from West Point, and seventy-eight from New York; Light southerly breeze, two knots.
6 a. m. Fell calm; went on shore and got a supply of milk and eggs; could not procure bread.
7 a. m. Light southerly air; got under weigh; hot sun.
8 a. m. Fine favorable breeze.
8½ a. m. Poughkeepsie seventy-nine miles, high wooded banks each side of the river; came up with and passed four sloops.
Esopus Island ninety-five miles from New York. Esopus Flats one hundred miles; these flats, or shoals, throw the channel of the river on the opposite shore, where it forms a large bay; fine view here of the Katskill Mountains. ***
2 p. m. Redhook one hundred miles from New York, beautiful situation; opposite to the Katskill Mountains; two Islands decorate the (p. 15) river. We were now carried along at the rate of ten miles and hour, having scarcely time to examine the beauty of the country, through which we were so rapidly passing.
3 p. m. The city of Hudson,* one hundred and thirty miles; opposite to Hudson is Lunenberg, or Algiers; this latter name was given to it in consequence of the piratical practices of its inhabitants. Above Hudson is a wind-mill; I do not know that there are four in the United States. There are two near Newport.
Hudson City. In the Autumn of 1783, Messrs. S. & T. Jenkins, from Providence, Rhode Island, fixed on the unsettled spot, where this City stands, for a town, to which the River is navigable for vessels of any size. In the Spring of 1786, one hundred and fifty Dwelling-Houses, besides Shops, Barns, Four Warehouses, several Wharfs, [A Whale] Spermaceti Works, a covered Rope-Walk, and one of the best Distilleries in America, were erected; its inhabitants are at this time 1,500. Its increase since has been very rapid. Supplied by pipes with water from a spring two miles from the City. In February, 1786, upwards of 1,200 Sleighs entered the City daily, for several days together.
4½ p. m. Kinderhook [Columbia County] one hundred and forty miles; twenty houses; Mr. M’c Machin’s is the principal one; fine view; Islands numerous in this part of the river. Heavy thundering; took in sail: cast anchor.
5½ p. m. Got under weigh, in doing which, fished up an excellent and large anchor, a valuable prize for the Captain. The gust, as expected, killed the wind; in summer I never knew an instance to the contrary. Had the gust kept off, we should have been in Albany by seven o’clock.
9 p. m. The wind having entirely failed us, took the Sloop in tow, and at 7 p. m had her moored alongside a Wharf in [New] Baltimore [Greene County], one hundred and forty-five miles. Went on shore; took with us Nicholas and his violin, the fiddle soon got the girls together; we kicked up a dance and kept it up till midnight. Treated with spruce-beer and gingerbread. [New] Baltimore is a shabby place, every other house a tavern; in number about a dozen.
Wednesday, June 25th.
3 a. m. Not a breath of air; took Sloop in tow; not possible to see from stem to stern, yet passed a dangerous and difficult passage and a bar, which require, it is said, your having all your eyes about you.
6 a. m. Made land; the fog beginning to disperse; put the Presbyterian Minister on shore; he is engaged by a Mr. Nichols as a tutor to his children! Boat returned with milk for breakfast.
7½ a. m. Dropped anchor; took Boat and landed on High-hill Island, four miles in length; two farms; got a few sour cherries; one hundred and fifty-four miles from New York. Crossed to the opposite or west shore, and landed at a farm house called Bethlehem, six miles from Albany; numerous and handsome family.
9 a. m. Having hired a wagon, seven of our passengers took their departure. The day being remarkably sultry, I determined to stay by the Sloop. Returned on board with potatoes and salad.
Albany: settled in 1760 [sic]; forty-five Sloops (Vessels) in Albany and forty-five in New York, &c., — total ninety in the Albany trade, a bout seventy tons each — ten voyages (twenty trips) per annum on an average; navigated by a Captain at twenty dollars per month; a Pilot at fifteen dollars; a Seaman and a Cook at nine dollars — total four hands. Freight twelve cents and a half per cwt., gain one hundred dollars per voyage or one thousand dollars per annum. Passage, one dollar and twenty-five cents, average eight passengers, ten dollars a trip or two hundred dollars per annum.
Sloop Building at Albany twenty-seven dollars and fifty cents per ton, if green wood last only ten years, seasoned wood would last thirty. Four thousand White Inhabitants, and two thousand Black Slaves. Revenue, 35,000. Corporation [the City of Albany] sell the Quays [Wharf] at two dollars and fifty cents per foot of Frontage and an annual rent of eight dollars and twelve and a half cents. Lands near the Town from sixty-three to seventy-five dollars per acres. Labor, fifty-six and a half cents per day; in harvest, eight-seven and a half cents. Butcher’s Meat ten to twelve and a half cents per lb. [According to] Le Duc de Liancourt in 1795.
Noon. Got under weigh; light south air.
2 pm . Passed safely the Overslough. [The overslaugh was a notorious shallow area in the Hudson River about three miles south of Albany.]
2 pm. Albany, one hundred and sixty miles from New York. Took up my quarters at Lewis’s Tavern [on State Street, later the location of Albany Savings Bank]. Paid the Captain two dollars for passage money, and four dollars and fifty cents, for board and liquors; the same sum of six dollars and fifty cents was charged for my servant, though neither his bed or board were so good as mine. Our passage of four days may be considered a long one, at this season of the year, yet it was a pleasant one and no way tedious. The Hudson is one of the finest Rivers in America, and superior to them all in romantic and sublime scenery, more especially in its progress through the Highlands, a distance of sixteen miles.
Albany contained, in 1797, one thousand two hundred and sixty-three buildings, of which, eight hundred and sixty-three were dwelling-houses; and six thousand and twenty-one inhabitants.
The improvements in this City [of Albany], within five or six years, have been very great in almost all respects. Wharves built, Streets paves, Bank instituted. . . . now excellent water, (an article in which this City has hitherto been extremely deficient, having been obliged to use the dirty water of the river, is about to be conducted into the various parts of the City, from a fine spring five miles from the west of the City. Albany is unrivaled for situation, being nearly at the head of Sloop Navigation, on one of the noblest Rivers in the World. It enjoys a salubrious air, and is the natural emporium of the increasing trade of a large extent of Country, West and North. A Country of excellent soil, abounding in every article for the West India Market.
One mile North of this City [of Albany], near the Manor-House of Lieutenant Governor Van Rensselaer [Jeremiah Van Rensselaer, 1738-1810], are very ingeniously constructed extensive and useful Works for the manufacture of Scotch and Rappee Snuffs, Roll and Cut Tobacco of different Kinds, Chocolate, Mustard, Starch, Hair-Powder, Split Peas and Hulled Barley. The whole of the Machinery is worked by water. For the invention of this Machinery, the proprietor has obtained a patent.
What further added to the pleasantness of this trip, were our frequent expeditions on shore. We landed seven times, and each time employed two or three hours in exploring the country. We saw, too, the whole of the River; as we progressed but very few miles during the time we occupied our births. We usually retired at eleven, and rose at four or five o’clock. The shortest passage ever made on this River was by this same Sloop and Captain; he made it in sixteen hours and six minutes, from which should be deducted one hour for time occupied in landing passengers by the way. The passage often takes a fortnight to perform it, and sometimes twenty-five or thirty days. The passage is always shortest, the winds being equally favorable, up the river, as you carry the flood with you; in the other case you out-run the ebb. Captain Donnelly has taken 1,675 Dollars passage money in one year.
Thursday, June 26th
Evening. Visit Snuff Manufactory, Stadt-house [probably either the Schuyler House at the corner of State and Pearl Streets, or the city’s second Stadt Huys, site of the Albany Pan of Union] and a fine spring of water about a quarter of a mile out of town.
Illustration: “The Hudson at Tappan Zee” by Francis Silva 1876 showing a sloop, but actually depicting Esopus Meadows.
Matthew M Katz says
What a great diary! I’ve sailed many summers in the Hudson and in the East River on a two-thirds size, gaff-rigged Hudson River sloop built by the Clearwater Society, founded by Pete Seeger to (successfully) deal with the pollution that ended the fishing industry here. So far, I have not encountered any inebriated ministers on-board.
Olivia Twine says
Wonderful description. Brings history to life!