1833 Weston

Richard Weston was a bookseller in Edinburgh. He states in his introduction he had been considering emigration to America for some time and took this exploratory trip to decide whether or not he would move. He found very little to like in the country and wrote this book when he returned home, his "principal object being to impress upon intending Emigrants the necessity of the utmost caution in the degree of credit they may be disposed to give to statements advanced by certain writers." He was very happy to get home to Edinburgh.

I went on to Buffaloe; here the Erie canal terminates. Crowds of emigrants were taking shipping for Michigan; . . . I was now drawn into the vortex of the Michigan fever. I had often wondered at advertisements hung up in barrooms, stating that, as such a person had taken the Michigan fever, he would sell off all his stock by vendue - as he was to clear out for Michigan by a certain day, great bargains might be expected, and so forth. It was a common trick for persons to advertise that they had taken the fever, when they had no intention to remove, merely to gull the public, and get their goods sold, always, as the bills stated, below cost prices. I like the term "fever."

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Michigan is low-lying; country undulating, sandy; the fever and the ague making sad havoc among the new-comers - I saw its effects in the saffron countenances of the people, and the great mortality that was taking place. Notwithstanding, hundreds were rushing onward, and but few returning apparently cured, the greater part being left to fatten the soil. Misery and disappointment were as keenly depicted on the countenances of some of them as I had seen in New York. The fever, both in its literal and metaphorical sense, was indeed raging. The cause of the bodily epidemic was said to be the quantity of timber newly felled, and the decayed vegetable matter.

In a bar-room here I met with a Mr Smith of Vermont; he had had the fever and ague, and was very weak. He recommended me to quit the place immediately, as he was about to do himself. The deaths that had taken place, he said, were sixty per cent; and so callous were the feelings of the people, that the sick got no sympathy, the survivors seeming anxious for more deaths, that they might participate in the spoil. "If you live," he continued, "you will see nothing going on but cutting, burning, and clearing. I purchased a track of land, six hundred acres at three dollars each, but have left it. The copper-headed snake, the rattle-snake, and other poisonous reptiles, abound in myriads. Luckily for me, I bargained that at a given time, if I did not like the property, I was to have the deposit money returned. If I get to Buffaloe I shall be safe; but a relapse is mortal. Insects are so numerous, that you are like to be eaten up with them when they are alive, and when they die their decomposition poisons the whole air. In a word, this country in its present state is fit only for Indians."

This gentleman and I took shipping for Erie.

From: A VISIT TO THE UNITED STATES AND CANADA IN 1833; WITH THE VIEW OF SETTLING IN AMERICA. INCLUDING A VOYAGE TO AND FROM NEW-YORK. By Richard Weston. Edinburgh: Richard Weston and Son, 1836: 260-262.