Skip navigation

1824 Noble

Harriet L. Noble [ca 1803 - ] with her husband Nathaniel and their two small children came to Michigan in 1824. They were among the first settlers in Ann Arbor and later moved on to Dexter, Michigan. They traveled with her husband's brother Sylvester and his wife and six children and all settled together in Dexter. Harriet was 21 at the time of their migration.

In 1824 there was almost as great an excitement in Western New York about going to Michigan as there has been recently in regard to California. One of those enterprising settlers, the wife of Nathaniel Noble, has favored me with some of her recollections, which present a graphic picture of early times in this State. No language could be so appropriate as her own.

"My husband was seized with the mania, and accordingly made preparation to start in January with his brother. They took the Ohio route, and were nearly a month in getting through; coming by way of Monroe, and thence to Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor. Mr. John Allen and Walter Rumsey with his wife and two men had been there some four or five weeks, had built a small house, moved into it the day my husband and his brother arrived, and were just preparing their first meal, which the newcomers had the pleasure of partaking. They spent a few days here, located a farm a little above the town on the river Huron, and returned through Canada. They had been so much pleased with the country, that they immediately commenced preparing to emigrate; and as near as I can recollect, we started about the 20th of September, 1824, for Michigan. We travelled from our house in Geneva to Buffalo in wagons. The roads were bad, and we were obliged to wait in Buffalo four days for a boat, as the steamboat 'Michigan' was the only one on the lake. After waiting so long we found she had put into Erie for repairs, and had no prospect of being able to run again for some time. The next step was to take passage in a schooner, which was considered a terrible undertaking for so dangerous a voyage as it was then thought to be. At length we went on board 'the Prudence," of Cleveland, Capt. Johnson. A more inconvenient little bark could not well be imagined. We were seven days on Lake Erie, and so entirely prostrated with seasickness, as scarcely to be able to attend to the wants of our little ones. I had a little girl of three years, and a babe some months old, and Sister Noble had six children, one an infant. It was a tedious voyage; the lake was very rough most of the time, and I thought if we were only on land again, I should be satisfied, if it was a wilderness. I could not then realize what it would be so to live without a comfortable house through the winter, but sad experience afterwards taught me a lesson not to be forgotten.

"We came into the Detroit river; it was beautiful then as now; on the Canada side, in particular, you will scarce perceive any change. As we approached Detroit, the 'Cantonment" with the American flag floating on its walls, was decidedly the most interesting of any part of the town; for a city it was certainly the most filthy, irregular place I had ever seen; the streets were filled with Indians and low French, and at that time I could not tell the difference between them. We spent two days in making preparations for going out to Ann Arbor, and during that time I never saw a genteely-dressed person in the streets. There were no carriages; the most wealthy families rode in French carts, sitting on the bottom upon some kind of mat; and the streets were so muddy these were the only vehicles convenient for getting about. I said to myself, 'if this be a Western city, give me a home in the woods.' I think it was on the 3d of October we started from Detroit, with a pair of oxen and a wagon, a few articles for cooking, and such necessaries as we could not do without.

From: HARRIET L. NOBLE in The Pioneer Women of the West by Mrs. Elizabeth F. Ellet. Philadephia: Porter & Coates, 1873: 388-389.

See Also:

Dunbar, Willis. The Erie Canal and the Settlement of Michigan. Detroit Historical Society Bulletin 1964 (21 (2): 4-10.

Hazzard, Florence Woolsey. Pioneer Women of Washtenaw County. Michigan History Magazine 32 (1948): 181-201.

This account is also included in History of Washtenaw County, Michigan. Chicago: Chapman Brothers, 1881: 431-436.