Saturday, October 3, 2009

Chapter 21 of Smyth-Stuart's A Tour in the United States (1784)


Haw river. Deep river. Cape Fear river. Carroway mountains. Grand and elegant Perspective. Bad Accomodations. Unsuitable to an Epicure, or a Petit Maitre.

Having it in speculation to visit Henderson’s settlement on Kentucky, I mentioned my intention to Mr. Mabin [Mebane], who appeared very strenuous in dissuading me from undertaking such an enterprise at present, on account of the misunderstanding and disturbances now subsisting between the Indians and the Whites.

He informed me of a report, that even Henderson’s whole settlement was either exterminated, or in imminent danger of being so.

For this reason, I concluded to postpone this arduous undertaking, until such time as more certain and favourable intelligence of their situation in the settlement should arrive, and a better prospect of reaching it without molestation.

On the third evening after I came here, a gentleman, named Frohawk [Thomas Frohawk, the Clerk of Court in Salisbury?], called at Mr. Mabin’s, on his return to Salisbury, where he resided.

As he tarried all night, we had much conversation, and form his accounts of the Catawba Indians, my curiosity was strongly excited to visit their nations, which was only about an hundred miles beyond the town of Salisbury.

Accordingly, having expressed my desire and intention to Mr. Forhawk, he was so obliging as to propose to conduct and accompany me; an opportunity and eligible offer, which I with great satisfaction embraced, and set out along with him next morning.

The road we traveled in is named the Great Trading Path, and leads through Hillsborough, Salisbury, &c. to the Catawba towns, and from thence to the Cherokee nation of Indians, a considerable distance westward.

We forded the Haw river [Presumably at Swepsonville, NC], which is there about twice as broad as the Thames at Putney, and within a few miles farther, in the like manner, we crossed Reedy river [I think he must mean Alamance Creek or possibly Rock Creek], another branch of the same stream and as large.

We dined just by a Quaker’s meetinghouse (no modern Quaker Meeting House lies along this course, as far as I can tell; no idea what Meeting House it might have been), and in the afternoon crossed the Deep river, at a ford [probably at Randleman, NC]. This is also about twice as wide as the Thames at Putney, and joins the Haw river some distance below, after washing the base of the north-east side of a ridge or chain of high hills, named the Carroway mountains.

The Haw is then a large river, and runs through the settlement and town of Cross creek [Fayetteville, NC], which is chiefly inhabited by Scots emigrants from the western Highlands and the Hebrides; it then assumes a new appellation, being called the Northwest, or Cape Fear river, and passing by the town of Wilmington, which has been frequently considered as the metropolis of North-Carolina, on the north-east, and Brunswick, which is a little lower on the western bank of the river, it falls into the Atlantic ocean at Cape Fear, after a course of more than three hundred miles from the source.

We lodged that night at an inn or ordinary, as it is called here, at the foot of the Carroway mountains, which we had frequently had a glimpse of, during this day’s ride. [I wonder if this ordinary could be identified? None is shown on the Hughes Hist. Doc. Map of Randolph. Need to look at the G P Stout map.]

We pursued our journey early on the following morning, which was extremely pleasant and fine; and when we arrived at the summit of the mountain, the sun just began to verge above the horizon.

Here I alighted, and indulged myself in gazing with great delight on the wild and extensive prospect around me.

On the north-east I beheld the mountains at Hillsborough, distant above fifty miles; on the south-west, the mountains near Salisbury; and on the west, Tryon mountains; with the wide extended forest below, embrowned with thick woods, and intersected with dark, winding, narrow chasms, which marked out the course of the different mighty streams that meandered through this enormous vale; thinly interspersed on the banks of which, the farms and plantations appeared like as many insignificant spots, that, while they pointed out the industry, served also to expose the littleness of man. [Although I bet the view from here is still excellent, I doubt that it would any longer ‘expose the littleness of man.’]

On this spot I could with pleasure have passed the day, had not a craving, keen appetite reminded us, that there are more gratifications necessary for our support, than feasting our eyes; so we descended the mountain, and pursued our journey.

It was fortunate for me, that at this time, my constitution, health, and taste, enabled me to subsist on any kind of food, without repining, and with sufficient satisfaction, however coarse or unusual it might be. For this is not an enterprise for an epicure, or a petit maitre: the apprehension of perishing with hunger and want, would as effectually deter the one from such an undertaking, as the dread of absolutely expiring with fatigue with and hardships, would the other; the fare and accommodations a traveler meets with throughout this country, being very indifferent indeed, even at best, and generally miserable and wretched beyond description, excepting at ward or opulent planters houses, where there is always a profusion of every thing, but in the coarsest and plainest style. [I don’t really doubt him, but I have to say that he is such a whiner.]

The greater number of those who travel through this country, have acquaintances among the inhabitants, at whose houses they generally put up every night, and seldom call at ordinaries.

Those that drive and accompany waggons on a journey, sleep in the woods every night under a tree, upon dry leaves on the ground, with their feet towards a large fire, which they make by the road side, wherever night happens to overtake them, and are covered only with a blanket. Their horses are turned loose in the woods, only with leather spancills or fetters on two of their legs, and each with a bell fastened by a collar round his neck, by which they are readily found in the morning. Provisions and provender, both for men and horses, are carried along with them in the wagon, sufficient for the whole journey.

Even these advantages, trifling as they may appear, a traveler on horseback is destitute of, and is obliged to trust to Providence, and the country through which he passes, for accommodation and subsistence; both of which are not always to be me with and even when they are, are seldom as good, never better than the waggoners.


Yadkin River. Salisbury. Beautiful Perspective. Tryon Mountain. Brushy Mountains. The King Mountain distinguished for the unhappy Fate of the gallant Major Ferguson.

Late in the afternoon we crossed the river Yadkin, at a ford, six or seven miles beyond which is the town of Salisbury, where we arrived that evening, being about one hundred and twenty miles west-southwest- from Hillsborough.

[The author continues his narrative, describing King’s Mountain, Salisbury and the land beyond, but it moves outside the scope of this blog, so I will stop transcribing here.]

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