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."
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.