Thursday, 13 January 2011

Travel On Foot In The Colonial New World.

Keeping with the theme of survival in the New World and what you need to carry with you, I thought that I had better show you some of my research findings on Travel By Foot. I did enquire on some US sites in regard to foot travel and was informed that it did not happen! All travel was done by boat, canoe or horse. This just did not make sense to me so I kept digging.
I simply could not imagine these poor people being able to afford a horse. They would have enough trouble raising enough money to purchase equipment and tools. And if I had enough money to purchase a horse, I would sooner spend it on a cow at calf and use it to carry a load. Anyway, this is some of what I have found so far.

Travel On Foot.

On a trip in November, 1743, Leonard Schnell and Robert Hussey, “…lost their way several times and had to cross several rivers, through one of which, the Nottway, they had to swim, as there was no one at hand to take them across in a boat.”
William J. Hinke, "Diaries Of Missionary Travels Among The German Settlers In The American Colonies 1743-1748," The Pennsylvania German Society Proceedings And Addresses, (Published By The Society 1929)

In 1752 or 1753 Mittelberger interviewed Germans who had immigrated to Pennsylvania in the earlier decades. They reported that life was very hard; they lived in constant fear of the Indians and lacked tools, equipment, horses, and cattle. Meat was available, but salt and gunpowder were in short supply. Reports noted large fires, a by-product of deforestation, continually burned around their cabins.

The early American colonist settled along the rivers and bays on the Atlantic coast and travelled by walking, on horseback or by boat. Since there were no roads, Indian foot paths were adopted by the settlers as their early travel routes.
EARLY AMERICAN MIGRATION ROUTES. Don Raney (donraney@tx.rr.com)

Early colonial Americans clung to the sea coasts. The towns were, in truth rural townships developed around fishing, agriculture and lumbering, or some combination of these. At the end of the 17th century, chains of prosperous towns and fishing villages, constituting the colonies, girdled a great interior wilderness. Major commerce and travel was done by ship. However, even though the first settlers brought cattle with them-and horses in following generations-most inland travel was done on foot. On foot: a history of walking By Joseph Anthony Amato

, “…lost their way several times and had to cross several rivers, through one of which, the Nottway, they had to swim, as there was no one at hand to take them across in a boat.”
William J. Hinke, "Diaries Of Missionary Travels Among The German Settlers In The American Colonies 1743-1748," The Pennsylvania German Society Proceedings And Addresses, (Published By The Society 1929)

"I noticed particularly, one family of about 12 in number. The man carried an ax and a gun on his shoulders. The Wife, the rim of a spinning wheel in one hand, and a loaf of bread in the other. Several little boys and girls, each with a bundle, according to their size.

Two poor horses, each heavily loaded with some poor necessities. On the top of the baggage of one, was an infant rocked to sleep in a kind of wicker cage, lashed securely to the horse. A cow formed one of the company ,and she was destined to bear her proportion of service - a bed cord was wound around her horns and a bag of meal on her back.

They were not only patient, but cheerful and pleased with themselves with the expectation of seeing happy days beyond the mountains". – McClure
From the diary of Presbyterian Rev. David McClure.

By Andrew Knez Jr.

We were accordingly obliged to leave our canoe here, and to carry our baggage through unfrequented woods to Fort Anne, on the river Woodcreek, which is a space from forty-three to fifty English miles, during which we were quite spent, through the excess of heat. Sometimes we had no other way of eroding deep rivers, than by cutting down tall trees, which stood on their banks, and throwing them across the water. All the land we passed over this afternoon was almost level, without hills and stones, and entirely covered with a tall and thick forest, in which we continually met with trees which were fallen down, because no one made the least use of the woods. We passed the next night in the midst of the forest, plagued with muskitoes, gnats, and woodlice, and in fear of all kinds of snakes.

June the 26th. Early this morning we continued our journey through the wood, along the river Hudson, There was an old path leading to Fort Nicholson, but it was so overgrown with grass, that we discovered it with great difficulty. In some places we found plenty of raspberries, some of which were already ripe. Some time in the afternoon, we continued our journey. We had hitherto followed

the eastern shore of the river Hudson, and gone aimed due North , but now we left it and went E. N. E. or N. E. across the woods, in order to come to the upper end of the river Woodcreek which flows to. Fort St. Frederic, where we might go in a boat from the former

place. The ground we passed over this afternoon was generally flat, and somewhat low. Now and then we met with rivulets, which were generally dried up during this season. Sometimes we saw a little hill, but neither mountains nor stones, and the country was every where covered with tall and thick forests. The trees stood close, and afforded a fine shade ; but the pleasure which we enjoyed from it was lessened by the incredible quantity of gnats which fill the woods. We found several plants here, but they were far from each

other, (as in our woods where the cattle have destroyed them,) though no cattle ever came here. The ground was every where thick covered with leaves of the last autumn. In some places we found the ground over-grown with great quantities of moss. The soil was generally very good, consisting of a deep mould, in which the plants thrive very well. Therefore it seems that it would answer very well if it were cultivated: however, flowing waters were very scarce hereabouts ; and if the woods were cleared, how great would be the effects of the parching heat of the sun, which might then act with its full force !

We lodged this night near a brook, in order to be sufficiently supplied with water, which was not every where at hand during this season. The muskitoes, punchins or gnats, and the woodlice, were very troublesome. Our fear of snakes, and of the Indian, rendered this night's rest very precarious and unsecure.

Punchins, as the Dutch call them, are the little gnats (Culcxpulicaris Linn.) which abound here. They are very minute, and their wings grey, with black spots. They are -ten times worse than the larger ones, (Cidex pipiens Litn.) or muskitoes; for their size renders them next to imperceptible & they are every where carless of their

lives, suck their fill of blood, and cause a burning pain. We heard several great trees fall of themselves in the night, though it was so calm, that not a leaf stirred. They made a dreadful cracking.

June the 27th. We continued our journey in the morning. We found the country like that which we passed over yesterday, except meeting with a few hills. Early this morning we plainly heard a fall in the river Hudson.

In every part of the forest we found trees thrown down either by storms, or age; but none were cut down, there being no inhabitants, and though the wood is very fine, yet nobody makes use of it. We found it very difficult to get over such trees, because they had stopped up almost all the passages and close to them was the chief residence of rattle-snakes, during the intenseness of the heat.

About two o'clock this afternoon we arrived at Fort Anne.
Peter Kalm 1749.

Andrew Knez Jr.

Before nine of the clock this morning, the provisions, bedding and other necessaries were made up into packs for the men to carry on their shoulders into the Dismal.…their loads weighed from 60 to 70 pounds, in just proportion to the strength of those who were to bear them. It would have been unconscionable to have saddled them with burthens heavier than that, when they were to lug them through a filthy bog, which was hardly practicable with no burthen at all. Besides this luggage at their backs, they were obliged to measure the distance, mark the trees, and clear the way for the surveyors every step they went. For their greater safety, the commissioners took care to furnish them with Peruvian bark, rhubarb and hipocoacanah, in case they might happen, in that wet journey, to be taken with fevers or fluxes. The skirts of [The dismal] were thinly planted with dwarf reeds and gall bushes, but when we got into the Dismal itself, we found the reeds grew there much taller and closer, and, to mend the matter, were so interlaced with bamboo-briers, that there was no scuffling through them without the help of pioneers. At the same time, we found the ground moist and trembling under our feet like a quagmire, insomuch that it was an easy matter to run a ten foot pole up to the head in it, without exerting any uncommon strength to do it. Two of the men, whose burthens were the least cumbersome, had orders to march before, with their tomahawks, and clear the way, in order to make an opening for the surveyors.

William Byrd, The Westover Manuscripts: Containing the History of the Dividing Line Betwixt Virginia and North Carolina (Petersburg, Virginia: Edmund and Julius C. Ruffin, 1841).

On December 28, 1700, he led a small expedition out of Charleston and up the Santee River by canoe and then on foot to explore the Carolina backcountry. Along the way he took careful note of the vegetation, wildlife and, in particular, the many Indian tribes he encountered. He travelled nearly 600 miles through the wilderness, ending his journey near the mouth of the Pimlico River.

John Lawson (1674? – 1711).

Note the mention of Rhubarb above.


Gorges Smythe said...

If you can find it, somewhere I've read distances and times covered by some of our early "indian fighters" in the Kanawha and Ohio valleys. You would find it interesting.

Also, during the American "Uncivil" War, General Stonewall Jackson's infantry was know as his "foot cavalry", due to their tremendous ability to cover long distances quickly.

Le Loup said...

I am checking it out Gorges, much appreciated. Already I have turned up some info in the search. Not what I was looking for, but very interesting. Often happens that way.
Thanks again,Keith.