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1834 Parker

Amos Andrew Parker (1791-1893) left New Hampshire to find out more about the Western states and Texas. His stated object was "to see some portion of the unknown and unsettled regions of the West and the South." He spent five months traveling and examined a variety of topics he felt interesting.

In September, 1834, I left Exeter, New Hampshire, for the purpose of visiting the Western States and Texas. . . .

Persons travelling to Illinois, or farther west, can take passage in a vessel or steamboat from Buffalo to Chicago. The distance by water is one thousand miles; for they must go through Lake Erie, St. Clair, Huron and Lake Michigan. The distance by land is not so far by one half; but the water passage is the cheapest, attended with less hardship, and much the best way to convey goods. There are two other routes to Chicago. Take a steamboat at Buffalo for Monroe, in Michigan Territory; and from thence, there is a good stage route, through Tecumseh, Niles, Michigan city, and along the south end of the Lake Michigan to Chicago - or take a steamboat to Detroit; from thence the stage to the mouth of St. Joseph, and cross the lake in a schooner to Chicago. My object was to see something of Michigan; so I took passage in a steamboat for Detroit.

On board this boat, there were probably two hundred passengers; besides a number of horses and oxen, wagons, household furniture and baggage. - Most of them were emigrants, chiefly destined to some part of Michigan. The cabin passage is eight dollars - deck three dollars. Of the whole number not more than ten took the cabin passage. We stopped at Portland, Erie, Ashtabula, Fairport, Cleaveland and Sandusky, and arrived at Detroit in two days - distance 305 miles. . . .

Detroit is on the river, 25 miles above Lake Erie, and 7 below Lake St. Clair. The river is about a mile wide, and the current sets down at the rate of from two to three miles an hour. It contains about three thousand inhabitants; many of whom are French and some negroes and Indians. Much business is done here; and it will probably be one of the most important frontier towns; as it possesses a safe harbor and steam boat navigation to Buffalo, Michilimackinac, Green Bay, Chicago, &c. It is well laid out, and has some fine streets and buildings. Its public buildings are a court house, jail, academy, council house, two banks; a Presbyterian, Episcopalian, Methodist, Baptist and Catholic churches; arsenal, magazine and commissary store house.

The streets near the water are dirty, generally having mean buildings, rather too many grog shops among them, and a good deal too much noise and dissipation. The taverns are not generally under the best regulations, although they were crowded to overflowing. I stopped at the steamboat hotel, and I thought enough grog was sold at that bar, to satisfy any reasonable demand for the whole village. - When the bell rang for dinner, I hardly knew what it meant. All in and about the house jumped and run as if the house had been on fire; and I thought that to have been the case. I followed the multitude, and found they were only going into the hall to dinner. It was a rough and tumble game at knife and fork - and whoever got seated first, and obtained the best portion of dinner, was the best fellow. Those who came after must take care of themselves the best way they could; and were not always able to obtain a very abundant supply.

At night, I was obliged to sleep in a small room having three beds in it, take a companion, and a dirty bed. In travelling, I am always disposed to make the best of every thing, and complain of nothing if it can be avoided. And in starting on this journey, I was aware, that I might suffer some hardships and inconveniences; and I had determined to bear with patience everything that was bearable; but I had not expected to be put to the test in the old settled town of Detroit. The house is large enough, and servants enough, but there was a plentiful lack of decent accommodations, in and about it.

The upper streets make a fine appearance, and are pleasant and ornamented with some elegant buildings.

Two steam ferry boats ply constantly between this, and a small village called Sandwich, on the Canada side of the river. On a pleasant afternoon, I crossed the river, and walked three or four miles on the pleasant Canada shore. From this position, Detroit shows to advantage.

Detroit has suffered much by disease. Fevers, ague and cholera, swept off its hundreds. But it is difficult to discover any other cause for the great numbers of deaths, than the filthiness of the place, and the dissipation and exposure of many of its inhabitants. It needs reform; and I was informed that the subject had arrested the attention of its best citizens, and they had commenced the work in good earnest.

After spending two days at Detroit, I took the stage for the mouth of St. Joseph river, on Lake Michigan - fare $9.50.


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