Meriwether Lewis on the Ohio River
The Journals of Captain Meriwether Lewis and Sergeant John Ordway, edited by Milo M.
Quaife (Madison: The State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1915)
Present-Day West Virginia
The Journals of Captain Meriwether Lewis and Sergeant John Ordway, edited by Milo M. Quaife (Madison: The State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1915)
September 6th 1803.
The fogg was as thick as usual this morning detained us untill 1/2 past 7 O'C. when we set out - observed the Thermometer in the air to stand at 71° Water 73° - the fogg continued even with [this] small differences between the temperature of the air and water [s]truck on a riffle which we got over with some difficulty and in the distance of two miles and a half passed 4 others three of which we were obliged to drag over with horses; the man charged me the exorbitant price of two dollars for his trouble. - got on pretty well to Steubenville which we past at 2 OC. being 6 m. from encamp[ment] hoisted our fore sale found great relief from it we run two miles in a few minutes when the wind becoming so strong we were obliged to hall it in lest it should carry away the mast, but the wind abating in some measure we again spread it; a sudon squal broke the prete and had very nearly carried away the mast, after which we firled and secured it tho' the wind was so strong as to carry us pretty good speed by means of the arning and firled sails. - struck on a riffle about two miles below the town hoisted our mainsail to assist in driving us over the riffle the wind blew so heard as to break the spreat of it, and now having no assistance but by manual exertion and my men woarn down by perpetual lifting I was obliged again to have recourse to my usual resort and sent out in serch of horses or oxen - Stewbenville a small town situated on the Ohio in the State of Ohio about six miles above Charlestown in Virginia and 24 above Wheeling - is [a] small well built thriving place has several respectable families residing in it, five years since it was a wilderness - the oxen arrived got off with difficulty the oxen drew badly however with their assistance we got over two other riffles which lyed just below; we proceeded about a mile and a half further and encamped on the west bank having made ten miles this day.
September the 7th
Foggy this morning according to custom; set out at half past seven, and in about two hundred paces stuck on a riffle all hands obliged to get out - observed the Thermometer at sun rise in the air to stand at 47° the tem[pe]rature of the river water being 68° - difference - 21° got over the riffle, at 45 mts after 8. passed Charlestown on the E. shore above the mouth of Buffaloe over which there is built a handsom wooden bridge, this has the appearance of a handsome little Village, containing about forty houses - this village is three miles below our encampment of last evening - reached Wheeling 16 Miles distant at 5 in the evening. this is a pretty considerable Village contains about fifty houses and is the county town of Ohio (State of Virginia) it is situated on the east side of the river on an elivated bank; the landing is good. just below the town and on the same side [close] by Wheeling creek emtys itself into the Ohio, on the point formed by this creek and the river stands an old stoccade fort, now gone to decay; this town is remarkable for being the point of embarkation for merchants and Emegrants who are about to descend the river, particularly if they are late in geting on and the water gets low as it most commonly is from the begining of July to the last of September; the water from hence being much deeper and the navigation better than it is from Pittsburgh or any point above it - I went on shore waited on a Mr Caldwell a merchant of that place to whome I had consigned a part of my goods which I had sent by land from Pittsburgh; found the articles in good order; her[e] met with Colo Rodney one of the commissioners appointed by the government to adjust the landed claims in the Mississippi territory in his suit was Majr Claiborne and a young gentleman who was going on to the Territory with a view to commence the practice of the law - he is a pupil of Czar Rodney of Deleware remained all night.
this day wrote to the President, purchased a perogue and hired a man to work her, my men were much fatiegued and I concluded it would be better to give them a day['s] rest and let them wash their cloths and exchange their flour for bread or bake their their bread in a better manner than they had the means of baking it while traveling; dined with Colo Rodney and his suit, in the evening they walked down to my boat and partook of some watermellons. I here also met with Dr Patterson the son of the professor of mathematicks in the University of Philada he expressed a great desire to go with me I consented provided he could get ready by three the next evening he thought he could and instantly set about it; I told the Dr that I had a letter of appointment for a second Lieut. which I could give him but did not feel myself altogether at liberty to use it as it was given me by the President to be used in the event of Mr Clark's not consenting to go with me but as he had I could not use it without the previous consent of the President; however if he thought proper to go on with me to the Illinois where I expected to winter I could obtain an answer from the President by the spring of the year or before the Missourie would be sufficiently open to admit of my ascending it; and that in the event of the President's not consenting to our wishes, I conceived that the situation of that country was a much more elligible one for a phisician than that of Wheeling particularly as he stated the practice which he had acquired at Wheeling was not an object; the Dr was to have taken his medicine with him which was a small assortment of about 100£ value. remained here all night - The people began to top ther corn and collect ther fodder
The Dr could not get ready I waited untill thre[e] this evening and then set out had some difficulty in geting over a riffle one mile below the town, got on six miles and brought too, I was now informed that by some mistake in the contract between the Corporal and the woman who had engaged to bake the bread for the men at Wheeling that the woman would not agree to give up the bread being 90 lbs. and that the bread was left I instantly dispatched the Corpol and two men for the bread and gave him a dollar to pay the woman for her trouble; about the time we landed it began to rain very heard and continued to rain most powerfully all night with small intervals; had my perogues covered with oil-cloth, but the rain comes down in such torrents that I found it necessary to have them bailed out freequently in the course of the night; in attending to the security of my goods I was exposed to the rain and got wet to the skin as I remained untill about twelve at night, when I wrung out my saturated cloths, put on a dry shirt turned into my birth; the rain was exceessively could for the season of the year.
The rain ceased about day, the clouds had not dispersed, and looked very much like giving us a repetition of the last evening's frollic, there was but little fogg and I should have been able to to have set out at sunrise, but the Corporal had not yet returned with the bread - I began to fear that he was piqued with the sharp reprimand I gave him the evening before for his negligence & inattention with respect to the bread and had deserted; in this however I was agreably disappointed, about 8 in the morning he came up bring[ing] with him the two men and the bread, they instantly embarked and we set out we passed several very bad riffles this morning and at 11 Oclock six miles below our encampment of last evening I landed on the east side of the [river] and went on shore to view a remarkable artificial mound of earth called by the people in the neighbourhood the Indian grave. This remarkable artificial mound of earth stands on the east bank of the Ohio 12 Miles below Wheeling and about 700 paces from the river, as the land is not cleard the mound is not visible from the river - this mound gives name to two small creeks called little and big grave creek which passing about a half a mile on each side of it & fall into ohio about a mile distant from each other the small creek is above, the mound stands on the most elivated ground of a large bottom containing about 4000 acres of land the bottom is bounded from N. E. to S. W. by a high range of hills which seem to discribe a simecircle around it of which the river is the dimater, the hills being more distant from the mound than the river, near the mound to the N. stands a small town lately laid out called Elizabethtown there are but about six or seven dwelling houses in it as yet, in this town there are several mounds of the same kind of the large one but not near as large, in various parts of this bottom the traces of old intrenchments are to be seen tho' they arc so imperfect that they cannot be traced in such manner as to make any complete figure; for this enquire I had not leasure I shall therefore content myself by giving a discription of the large mound and offering some conjectures with regard to the probable purposes for which they were intended by their founders; who ever they may have been. - the mound is nearly a regular cone 310 yards in circumpherence at its base & 65 feet high terminating in a blont point whose diameter is 30 feet, this point is concave being depresed about five feet in the center, arround the base runs a ditch 60 feet in width which is broken or inte[r]sectcd by a ledge of earth raised as high as the outer bank of the ditch on the N. W. side, this bank is about 30 feet wide and appers to have formed the enterence to fortifyed mound - near the summet of this mound grows a white oak tree whose girth is 13 1/2 feet, from the aged appeance of this tree I think it's age might resonably [be] calculated at 300 years, the whole mound is covered with large timber, sugar tree, hickery, poplar, red and white oak &c - I was informed that in removing the earth of a part of one of these lesser mounds that stands in the town the skeletons of two men were found and some brass beads were found among the earth near these bones, my informant told me the beads were sent to Mr Peals museum in Philadelphia where he believed they now were. -
we got on twenty four miles this day, we passed some bad riffles but got over them without the assistance of cattle came too on the E. side in deep water and a bold shore staid all night a little above sunfish creek.
Set out about sunrise, passed Sunfish creek 1 Mile &c &c entered the long reach, so called from the ohio runing in strait direction for 18 miles in this reach there are 5 Islands from three to 2 miles in length each - observed a number of squirrels swiming the Ohio and universally passing from the W. to the East shore they appear to be making to the south; perhaps it may be mast or food which they are in serch of but I should reather suppose that it is climate which is their object as I find no difference in in the quantity of mast on both sides of this river it being abundant on both except the beach nut which appears extreemly scarce this season, the walnuts and Hickery nuts the usual food of the squirrell appears in great abundance on either side of the river - I made my dog take as many each day as I had occation for, they wer[e] fat and I thought them when fryed a pleasent food - many of these squirrils were black, they swim very light on the water and make pretty good speed - my dog was of the newfoundland breed very active strong and docile, he would take the squirel in the water kill them and swiming bring them in his mouth to the boat. we lay this night below the fifth Island in the long reach on the E. side of the river having come 26 miles.
set out at sunrise it began to rain and continued with some intervals untill three in the evening passed several bad riffles and one particularly at the lower end of the long reach called Willson's riffle here we were obliged to make a cut a channel through the gravel with our spade and canoe paddles and then drag the boat through we were detained about 4 hours before we accomplished this task and again continued our rout and took up on the N. W. shore near a yankey farmer from whom I perchased some corn and pittatoes for my men and gave him in exchange a few lbs. of lead, we came 20 miles this day.
This morning being dare we persued our journey at sunrise and after passing a few riffles over which we had to lift the boat we arrived at Marietta, the mouth of the Muskingum river, at 7. OClock in the evening observed many pigeons passing over us pursuing a south East course. The squirrels still continue to cross the river from N. W. to S. E. - Marietta is one hundred miles from Wheelings lay here all night wrote to the President of US. dismissed two of my hands, one of whome by the name of Wilkinson I had engaged at Georgetown, the other Saml Mongomery, I engaged at Wheeling, my party from Pittsburgh to Mackintosh was 11 strong from thence to Georgetown 10, from thence to Wheeling 11, from thence to Muskingum 13, from thence to Limestone 12, at Wheeling I engaged Mongomery and a young man come on board and agreed to work his passage, on the same terms I engaged another at Marietta or the Mouth of Muskingum - this evening was visited by Colo Green the Postmaster at this place, he appears to be much of a gentleman and an excelant republican. -
- Set out this morning at 11 OClock was prevented seting out earlyer in consequence of two of my men geting drunk and absenting themselves. I finally found them and had them brought on board, so drunk that they were unable to help themselves passed several riffles and lay all night on the N. W. shore - was here informed that there were some instances of the goitre in the neighbourhood two women who lived on the bank of the river just below they had emegrated to that place from the lower part of pensylvania and had contracted the disorder since there residence on the Ohio - The fever and ague and bilious fevers here commence their banefull oppression and continue through the whole course of the river with increasing violence as you approach it's mouth - saw many squirrels this day swiming the river from N. W. to S. E. caught several by means of my dog -
Set out this morning at sunrise, passed the mouth of the little Kanaway one mile below our encampment of last evening on the Virginia shore it is about 60 yards wide at it's mouth there is a considerable settlement on this river it heads with the Monongahela, passed the mouths of the little and big Hockhockin[g] and the settlement of Bellpray a yanke settlement passed several bad riffles over which we were obliged to lift the boat, saw and caught by means of my dog several squirrels, attempting to swim the river, one of these, the only instance I have observed, was swiming from the S. E. to the N. W. shore - one of the canoes fell a considerable distance behind, we were obliged to ly too for her coming up which detained us several hours; it rained very hard on us from 7. this morning untill about three when it broke away and evening was clear with a few flying clouds, took up on the Virginia shore having mad[e] 18 Miles this day.
Thermometer this morning in the air 54° in the water 72° a thick fogg which continued so thick that we did not set out untill 8 oClock in the morning the day was fair, passed several very bad riffles and among the rest Emberson's Island, while they were geting the boat through this long riffle I went on shore and shot some squirrels; my men were very much fatigued with this days labour however I continued untill nearly dark when we came too on the Virginia shore having made only 19 Miles this day. -
The morning was foggy but b[e]ing informed by my pilot that we had good water for several miles I ventured to set out before the fog disappeared, came on seven miles to the old Town Bar, which being a handsome clean place for the purpose I determined to spend the day and to open & dry my goods which I had found were wet by the rain on the 15th notwithstanding I had them secured with my oilcloths and a common-tent which I had as well as it was possible and the canoes frequently bailed in the course of the day and night I found on opening the goods that many of the articles were much Injured; particularly the articles of iron, which wer[e] rusted very much my guns, tomehawks, & knives were of this class; I caused them to be oiled and exposed to the sun the clothing of every discription also was opened and aired, we busily employed in this business all hands, from ten in the Morning untill sun seting when I caused the canoes to be reloaded, having taken the precaution to put up all the articles that would addmitt of that mode of packing to be put in baggs of oil-cloth which I had provided for that purpose and again returned to their several casks, trunks, and boxes - my bisquit was much injured I had it picked and put up in these baggs - this work kept [me] so busy that I ate not anything untill after dark, being determined to have every thing in readiness for an early start in the morning; the evening was calm tho' the wind had blown extreemly hard up the river all day - It is somewhat remarkable that the wind on this river, from much observation of my own, and the concurrent observation of those who inhabit it's banks, blows or sets up agains it's courent four days out of five during the course of the whole year; it will readily be concieved how much this circumstance will aid the navigation of the river - when the Ohio is in it's present low state, betwen the riffles and in many places for several miles together there is no preseptable courent, the whole surface being perfectly dead or taking the direction only which the wind may chance to give it, this makes the passage down this stream more difficult than would at first view be immageoned, when it is remembered also that the wind so frequently sets up the river; the way the traveler makes in descending therefore is by the dint of hard rowing - or force of the oar or pole.
The morning was clear and having had every thing in readiness the over night we set out before sunrise and at nine in the morning passed Letart's falls; being nine miles distant from our encampment of the last evening - this rappid is the most considerable in the whole course of the Ohio, except the rappids as they ar called opposite to Louisville in Kentuckey - the descent at Letart's falls is a litte more than 4 four feet in two hundred fifty yards.
Exploration, Settlement and Conflict (1600-1799)