Philo E. Thompson

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Diary
Philo E. Thompson
March 28, April 23, 1836

Handwritten at the top of the page:
Dec. 1951 for Raymond Arnett
your g.grandfather on your mothers family

     Diary of the journey of Philo Ellsworth Thompson from Ellington, Connecticutt to Payson, Illinois in 1836. Starting March 28, he arrived at his destination on April 23rd having traveled continuously by various means as weather permitted; - a sharp contrast to the speed and sease of travel today, 115 years later. (1836 -1951)
     This diary written on a sheet and a half of legal size parchment paper, folds into a regular sized letter and was sealed with wax. Sent by devious ways to the east it was just as long reaching its destination. The red posmark says Quincy, and an ink nottion in the corner shows that 25cents was paid for its postage there being no stamps in use in 1836.
     Philo E. Thompson was born Jan. 26, 1811 in Ellington, Ct. and came to Payson April, 1836 as a pioneer settler. On Sept. 13, 1836 he was married in the new, large colonial residence he had built in Payson. here their eight children were born and raised, the home being owned and occupied by some of the Thompson family for more than seventy years. The house, still occupied, is now one of the oldest and best preserved of the early buildings in the village


     Ellington, Connecticutt - March 28, 1836 - Started this day for Illinois. Went to town and attended the wedding of Charlotte Foster and Mr. Waterman at 7 a.m., thence to Hartford (16 miles); arrived at 12 noon. Transacted our business there and left at 2 p.m. on the stage for New Haven (34 miles), through Berlin, Meridan. The road very muddy. Arrived at 9 p.m. put up at Park House and found cousins Luther and Jared (Scarborough) at college that evening. They were much surprised at seeing me and promised to write their mother that evening.

     Tuesday, March 29 - Cloudy - Cousins this morning accompanied us to the boat - sent their package and much love to their frineds. We started at 7 a.m., the sound very still. Had a fine ride and arrived at New York at 2 p.m. Sent our baggage across the city to storehouse. I put up at Franklin House and attended Park theatre at evening.

     Wednesday, March 30th - (Snow and rain) left New York at 7 a.m. for Philadelphia (95 miles) in the steamboat Swan for Amboy, stopped at 9 a.m.; thence by railroad across New jersey for Bordertown (85 miles) left at 10, had a glorious ride and arrived at Bordentown at 12, thence down the Delaware to Philadelphia (30 miles in the steamboat "Trenton." We called at Bristol, Pa,; Burlington, N.Y.; and arrived at Philadelphia at 5 o'clock where we put up at the North American Hotel kept by Mrs. Yoke. Found this a good house and called on John Hall at evening.

     Thursday, March 31st - Pleasant, Stayed in Philadelphia - think it a beautiful city. Visited the Navy yard, went on board the Pennsylvania, the largest ship I ever saw. Traveled over a great part of the city; visited the water works at Mount Pleasant - a great work of art, by which water is raised from the Schuylkill by a forcing pump, to a great height into a basin on the top of a hill, thence runs in an aquaduct to Philadelphia, and powerfully waters the whole city.

     Friday, April 1 - Cloudy. Left Philadelphia at 9 for Columbia, (82 miles) on railroad. Went out three miles with horsepower, crossed the Schuylkill, ascended an incline plane for 5/8 mile by means of stationary engine, and thence by steam in good style with ten cars in train. Averaged about 20 miles per hour, stopped several times for wood and water. Stopped at Lancaster, a beautiful place, and left two or three cars, thence quickly onward and descended an incline plane 19 hundred feet and arrived at Columbia at 5 p.m., highly delighted with our ride. Like the country very much, put up at the Washington hotel, a good house.

     Saturday, April 2nd, Pleasant. Stayed at Columbia, the canal not passable on account of brakes. This is pleasant place situated on the Susquehannah at the termination of the railroad and canal. See many fine sights, particularly great six horse teams, with the driver riding near the hind horse guiding them with one rein. The bridge across the Susquehannah 1 1/4 miles long cost $130,000.00.

     Sunday, April 3, Pleasant. Still at Columbia. Little regard is here paid to the Sabbath. There is no cessation of business on railroad or canal, people spend their time in riding or loitering about the streets.

     Monday, April 4, Pleasant. Yet at Columbia. Left at 5 for Holidaysburg by canal, (172 miles) on the boat Chespeake, Libbart the captain. Passed Harrisburg that night.

     Tuesday, April 5, Pleasant (On the canal) crossed the Susquehannah 43 miles from Columbia, with horse on bridge and the boat pressed heavily down by the current. Thence up the Juniatta two miles and crossed the river by acqueduct, stopped at Newport and here crossed the river by rope ferry. Stopped, also, at Millerstown. Met a boat aground and could not get by. Every man off and backed the boat several rods and started at full speed; raised a swell and went by. Passed Mexico, a considerable place. Horses were frightened and jumped into the canal and swam across; ran half a mile; flung one horse (we had three) but they stopped unhurt.

     Wednesday, April 6, Pleasant on canal. Left the boat and walked one mile across the mountains (the distance around by boat 5 miles), bought some sweet cider and apples. Walked some distance. We crossed the Juniatta by aqueduct, passed Jack's Narrows, a lofty mountain. witha stage road running across the side. Crossed the Juniatta several times by aqueduct and towbridges and parsed through 111 locks and ascended 1000 feet.

     Thursday, April 7, Pleasant. Arrived safely at Holidaysburg at six, thence by Portage railroad 36 miles over the Alleghany mountains to Johnstown, drawn by horses on levels, and ascended 5 inclined planes by stationary engines. The longest 3200 feet. We passed a mile and a half upon the summit, 2475 feet above tidewater. Here we breakfasted and found a cool climate with much snow. We descended 4 inclined planes, saw several coal mines, much heavy timber. Thence 14 miles by engine and passed through a tunnel 900 feet long and 260 feet beneath the surface. We descended another incline plane and thence by horsepower to Johnstown, where we arrived at 2, then on by canal to Pittsburg (103 miles) on board the canal boat Cincinatti with Captain Hoffman. We passed the tunnel during the night and did not see it.

     Friday, April 8. Pleasant. On the canal, passed down the Kiskemiitas by slack water. Dams were across the river setting backwater for several miles. We passed mayn salt works on the river bank where six or eight hundred feet through the rocks. It is raised by steam pumps. Their fuel is coal which is dug from the mountain above them. We crossed the Alleghany river by acqueduct thence down by this river and passed Freeport, a considerable place. Went through 65 locks and crossed the Alleghany again by acqueduct at Pittsburg, where we arrived at 6 p.m., and put up at the Exchange.

     Saturday, April 9, Stormy. Stayed this day at Pittsburg. This is a great manufacturing place, particularly of iron work. Coal is their only fuel and it is the blackest, nastiest place I ever saw. Buildings inferior, people generally of the lowest grade. Engaged passage on board the boat Mountaineer with Captain Wells for St. louis - - put baggage on board and took lodging there.

     Sunday, April 10. Severely cold, some snow. Started at 11 for St. Louis on board Mountaineer (1200 miles). Good company and enjoy ourselves well. Called at Wellsville and Steubenville, Ohio; Wheeling, Va., at 7. Here we stayed overnight. These are manufacturuing towns using coal and much resembling Pittsburg.

     Monday, April 11. Pleasant. Our boat tarries at Wheeling, taking on freight and emigrants -- whole families with their effects, farming tools, household furniture, horses and wagons, slaves, hogs and all. Started at 11 on our way again, made several stops taking on more families with their furniture. Our boat is now heavily laden, have about 80 cabin passengers. Deck also, too numerous to mention -- river very high. We see many log huts, good farms and coal mines along the river. People here seem of good birth and live well. We enjoy our passage here very much.

     Tuesday, April 12. Pleasant. Making rapid progress down the river. Stopped at Burlington and Portsmouth, Ohio -- flourishing places. Stopped at Maysville, Ky., a very neat, handsome place, and arrived at Cincinatti during the night, here stayed till morning.

     Wednesday, April 13. Pleasant. At Cincinatti had the opportunity to view the city. Think it the pleasantest situation I ever saw, best pavements, buildings good, business lively. Started at 10 on our way, stopped at Lawrenceburg, an excellent tract of land here. halted at Risingsun, and stayed at Louisville during the night. A flourishing business place.

     Thursday, April 14. Pleasant. Left Louisville and passed the rapids. River is high and canal useless. Stopped at New Albany, a newly built, flourishing place. See here much excellent land -- one tract in particular in Indiana extending in width about 1/4 mile from the river to a perpendicular ledge of rock about 1/2 mile in length, forming an impassable fence. Trees here have put forth their green leaves, and peaches are in full bloom.

     Friday, April 15. Pleasant. See some good land, though much is overflown. Stopped at Evansville, a high growing place. Stopped at Mount Vern, a pleasant place and halted at Shawneetown. here I first set foot on the sil of Illinois -- a handsome place though rather too low.

     Saturday, April 16. Stormy. Left the Ohio at break of day and now making our way up the mighty Mississippe. See some excellent bottom land, especially in Missouri. The Illinois side is wild and covered with timber, banks not firm, but breaking off in sime places, and forming in others. See large flocks of Pelicans, a bird as large as a goos, white showing some black upon the wing as they fly off, and having a large bill.

     Sunday, April 17. Cloudy, some rain. Stopped from midnight until day on account of fog. This morning a circumstance happened worthy of note. One of our cabin passengers has lost his boots. Search being made he finds them upon the feet of a deck passenger, a good looking well dressed young man. The mate gets a rawhide, orders him to the forward deck, makes him take off his coat, ties his hands, and putting the hook of the windlass rope between his wrists, hauls him up with his toes just touching the floor, and gave him twenty two lashes and afterward set him on shore at wooking place on an island. We see some excellent land on the Missouri side, the teams plowing with no regard for the Sabbath. We stopped at 10 until morning.

     Monday, April 18. Pleasant. See many lofty cliffs on the Missouri side, more picturesque and varying than I can describe -- shot towers, particularly at Selma, upon the edge of the cliff 375 feet high. Illinois side is rich though rather too low. Passed Jefferson Barracks, a beautiful place. On landing to wood a boy leaped upon the bank, fell back upon a log and was considerably hurt. Arrived at St. Louis at 5, put our luggage on board the boat O'Connell and put up at the National Hotel.

     Tuesday, April 19. Pleasant. Now in St. Louis, a lively business place, literally thronged with people. City irregularly built, streets narrow, badly paved, people savage and immoral. Left at one on O'Connell for Quincy (200 miles) cabin crowded with passengers. Land on both sides rich, though rather low. Waters of the Mississippi and Missouri do not mingle for many miles. Arrived at Alton about 9 at evening, the scattered lights covering a sloping hill, presented a brilliant appearance though it appears rather rocky and uneven.

     Wednesday, April 20. Pleasant. On our way up the Mississippi. The Illinois shore is high and rocky, covered with timber; the Missouri low. We passed two extensive praries, one most beautiful -- high and rolling; the other level and wet. About sunset we had a heavy thundershower with hail, rain, and wind, compelling our boat to run ashore and remain until the storm abated. Here the Illinois shore had a low bluff a distance back.

     Thursday, April 21. Pleasant. Stopped at Louisiana, Missouri, a considerable place. Here are two flour mills in operation. Passed an island 60 miles in length and five to eight broad, and stopped at Saverton, Missouri -- a handsome site for a town. Many wild ducks and turkeys. Called at Hannibal at evening. Here rather low.

     Friday, April 22. Pleasant. Halted at Marion City, a newly begun place, situated on a low level prairie, nearly overflown with water. A large quantity of building material and farming tols are deposited here. There are three log cabins, two framed houses and a store house already erected. We arrived at Quincy at 9 and put up at a log tavern. Spent the forenoon in looking about the place which is quite new, being covered with stumps. The front of the bluff near the river is lofty and rough, difficult to ascend, the town back upon the summit is a pleasant place having a hansome public square, a few good framed buildings among many small houses and log cabins. The foundation for a court haouse is laid and is to be erected this season.
     This afternoon went with Major Holton to see his farm and was highly pleased with the county and with his farm in particular, it being an elevated situation upon a prairie with a rich black soil three feet deep. Called at Mr. Flints and found them well. He has a good gouse and barn and a pleasant situation. We returned to Quincy at evening well pleased with our excursion. In company with Mr. Hubbard, I engaged a team for the conveyance of his goods and my trunk to Payson.

     Saturday, April 23. Pleasant. Left Quincy for Payson (14 miles) at 9 o'clock, went past some excellent farms, and through a large tract of timber -- found a bad muddy road -- traveled over a high extensive prairie, and arrived at Cousin Daniel's (Daniel Tobbins) at one o'clock. Found them well, living in a neatly built framed house, situated upon a rich rolling prairie which seems almost a paradise. Went at evening to uncle Princes, (Dea. David Prince) found them all well and happy, living in a good framed house in a beautiful situation. Found Deacon Scarboroughs family well. This, the village of Payson as laid out, seems formed by the God of nature for a town as they design it, and should building progress a few years, as during the year past, it will soon be one of the pleasantest villages which this country produces.

- - 26 Days - -


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