1837 Logan

James Logan [1794?-1872] was an Advocate in Edinburgh, Scotland who was apparently traveling as a tourist. He wrote: "Every young man who has the means of visiting foreign countries ought therefore to avail himselve of them." [Preface vii]

September 8th. Rising at seven a.m., I found we had got into Lake St. Clair, which is eighteen miles in length. The day was fine. About eleven we entered Detroit River, which is very broad and deep, and has several windings. We soon saw the spires of Detroit, and came to anchor on the Canada side, at a ferry where a small steamer plies every half hour to Detroit. I crossed and went to the American Hotel. The waiter would scarcely deign to answer my questions. When I went in, he was sitting at the bar whetting a knife. I asked him if he had any spare apartments; he said, "Yes, there are rooms in the house," but without so much as looking up. "Can I have one?" "Yes." "Do you keep a traveller's book?" "Yes." "Where is it?" He now looked up, and pointing opposite to where he sat, said, "There." I went and wrote my name, came back, and asked to see my room; on which he looked at the book, marked No. 3, and conducted me to a room on the first floor, containing four beds. I asked him if I could not have a single apartment. "No," he replied, in a surly manner. I then said I would go to another house, on which he turned round and left me. So I went to the Steam-boat Hotel, where I found the people more civil, and got a single apartment.

Having obtained accommodations at the Steam-boat Hotel, I went to inquire after a steamer to Mackinaw, and applied at several offices, but found their inmates so entirely absorbed in their own affairs, that I could scarcely get a word from them. Indeed, I never met with such uncivil conduct anywhere. On your entering an office, the clerks look at you, then immediately turn away; and if you ask a question, they limit their answer to a single monosyllable - yes or no. I had to go to several places before I could discover the office from which the first steamer went up the lake, and at Jones's learned that the one for Chicago did not come up from Buffalo until the 13th, but that there was loading at their wharf a schooner bound for the Green Bay, and intending to sail next day. On this I went and inquired for the captain, who, however, was not on board. On questioning the mate, I received the same brief and unsatisfactory answers as at the offices, and it appeared to me that the careless and indifferent manner shown to me was assumed, in consequence of their observing that I was a Briton. The greatest possible politeness on your part makes no difference on theirs; and the moment your question is answered, they go off to do any business they may have in hand, even should it be in another room, so that if you have more information to obtain, you must follow them up and down. When I asked the mate of the schooner where the captain was, he said he did not know, and walked away to another part of the vessel, where I was obliged to follow him, in order to be informed when I might call again. After this I walked through the streets of Detroit, which is a neat little place, having a population of nearly 9000. The principal street is very wide, and there are several good hotels, at which the board is a dollar and a half per diem, for three meals - breakfast, dinner, and tea - at all of which great quantities of meat are consumed. When the dinner-bell was rung, there was a general rush to the room, as if they had not tasted food for several days. Not being so ravenous as it seemed to me they all must be, I waited until they had all entered, and in consequence could not find a place at the table. However, I had only to wait about six minutes, when one, having finished his meal, walked off, on which I occupied his place; but by this time almost every thing seemed cleared off, so that I with difficulty obtained a fragment of bread and a cup of coffee. I soon found out the reason of the rush to dinner, and, benefiting by my experience, pursued the same course as the rest.

Next morning, having risen at half-past seven, I went to the large room, where is the bar, at which are sold all kinds of liquors, and where all the guests assemble. After waiting about half-an-hour, I inquired if breakfast was ready, and was told by the bar-keeper that it was over, the usual hour being seven. However, I obtained some, and not being hurried, made a more comfortable meal than I had done since my arrival in Detroit. I then walked along the river, the side of which is well cultivated, although the land is light. The district is chiefly peopled by French, as is the Canadian side. Returning to dinner at one o'clock, I found about a hundred persons at table. Very little conversation took place, each individual seemed to hurry on as fast as possible, and the moment one finished he rose and went away. There was no change of plates, knives, or forks, every thing being eaten off the same plate, excepting pudding, which was taken in saucers. Brandy and gin were on the table, but, as Mr Stewart says, they drink very little during dinner, although whenever they pass the bar, they either sit down and smoke, or indulge in potation. Indeed, drinking is carried to a great height both in Canada and in the State of Michigan. No sooner are they out of bed than they call for their bitters, and all day long they drink at brandy, gin, or whisky, taking, however, only a wine-glass at a time, which they mix in a tumbler with a little sugar and water. Just enough is taken at once to raise the spirits, and when the excitement subsides, the dose is repeated, so that in this way inebriation is avoided, although a great quantity is taken in the course of the day. Almost every person chews or smokes tobacco. At this hotel a number of well-dressed, and, to appearance, gentlemanly individuals, sat hour after hour without speaking a word. I never was addressed by one, although I sat in the midst of from twenty to thirty persons two nights from seven to ten. To me they seemed selfish, unsocial, and very ill-mannered, constantly spitting through their teeth all over the room, no matter where, lolling with their legs over the backs of chairs, and presenting a most disagreeable assemblage to one accustomed to the urbanity, order, and cleanliness of European society.

There is a theatre in Detroit, but no other place of public amusement. It is a very stirring town, however, and two large steamers generally come to it every day from Buffalo, bringing an incredible number of passengers, travelling on business, or for pleasure.

September 10th. After breakfast, I crossed by the ferry steamer to Canada, and walked along the river to Sandwich, which is rather a pretty village, although with little doing in it. Several large fields freed of stumps were seen. A number of Negroes have settled here, and are said to be doing well, being industrious and successful in their undertakings. Meeting one of them, who was advanced in years, I conversed with him, when he told me that he cultivated a piece of land belonging to himself, but that he intended to go over to the States, as most of the inhabitants of Sandwich had already done. On returning to Detroit, I went to a barber's to get my hair cut, and discovering by his speech that he was a Scotsman, entered into a conversation with him respecting the "Old Country," as the settlers designate Britain. He told me that he had resided in Goderich for a year, but that, there being little to do there, he had left it to come to Detroit about three months ago. About twenty families that he knew had also removed from it, and settled in Michigan, leaving little more than the same number in the village. A vast number of emigrants from Europe had passed through Detroit this season for the States of Michigan and Illinois. Finding that the schooner was ready to start as soon as the wind was favourable, I took my passage to Mackinaw, for which I paid eight dollars, including provisions, and slept on board.

About seven next morning we got under weigh, and sailed up the river - a Detroit merchant and myself being the only passengers.

From: NOTES OF A JOURNEY THROUGH CANADA, THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, AND THE WEST INDIES. By James Logan, Esq. Edinburgh: Fraser and Co., 1838: 65-70.