The Long Journey West in 1825

Journal Entry


Background Notes

In the first half of the nineteenth century, hundreds of thousands of New Englanders moved "West"-to New York state and Ohio, and later to Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin-in search of better land and greater opportunities for their children. In 1825 Samuel Freeman, his wife, and ten children left Sturbridge, Massachusetts for northern Ohio. Their son Lyndon, who was 22 at the time of the move, described the long and difficult journey in a reminiscence written for his grandchildren in 1877.

Transcription of Primary Source

I propose now to sketch somewhat more fully our early experience in the early days of that place and also to mention something peculiar to new settlements. My parents with ten of their thirteen children left Sturbridge, Ms.[Massachusetts], I think on the 20th of April 1825. They were about 20 days en route. The same distance could now be traveled in as many hours by rail. [We] went by a hired team to Schenectady, thence by Canal to Rochester, as far as the Erie Canal was at that time finished. Thence by team again about 70 ms[miles] to Buffalo. At this time there was only one Steam Boat, and but few sail vessels plying on Lake Erie: hence we had [to] stop in this place several days. At length we took passage in the schooner "Red Jacket" for Cleveland, O[hio] where we arrived in about 24 hours. We began to feel that we had at length arrived near to our new home in the wilds of O. There was really at that time no harbour at Cleveland. On account of a sand-bar across the mouth of the Cuyahoga River vessels could not enter it-hence all freight discharged for Cleveland was carried ashore in "lighters."

My parents had borne nearly all the care and responsibility incident to our journey. They now began to realize the fatigue of body and mind as they had not before. Cleveland in 1825 was only a village of a few hundred inhabitants. When we arrived in C[leveland] we had yet before us the worst part of our journey. After considerable time spent in finding them, two ox teams were hired to carry the family and our effects to our final stopping place in "Greenbrier." In the meantime myself and one or two of the younger boys were sent on to notify Mr. Fay at whose "Inn" we expected to put up-to prepare bed & board for fifteen (including our teamsters and [a] young man that Came with us from Sturbridge). Weary and dispirited, yet we rejoiced when we espied an oval-shaped thing inscribed upon it in plain English "B. Fay Inn." Our landlord seemed utterly astonished when we made our announcement. The teams had not succeeded in leaving Cleveland as soon as they expected to. We boys waited long and anxiously for their arrival. At length we heard as much noise as would seem necessary to drive 40 yokes of oxen. It had become quite dark when the teams hauled up at the aforesaid "Inn." A more dispirited, besaddened and forlorn company I never beheld.

The season was unusually rainy and the roads awful. B. Fay's Inn was a double log-house of two principal rooms-one was the kitchen or living room-the other the bar or whiskey room. The reader may be sure we were not disposed to criticise our accommodations. "Aunt Ruth," our hostess, was a kind, genial and sympathetic old lady. She saw at once our need of comfort and sympathy and began to make a practical use of her virtues. As we were all huddled into the one room Aunt Ruth among many questions asked mother how many children have you? Mother replied-I have ten with me and three left in Mass. Whereupon Mrs. F. began counting-a she could make only 9-It was even so, but where was the tenth? Had she fallen into one of those bottomless mud-holes? Enquiry and search solved the mystery. She (Clarinda I think) had been left out on the wagon fast asleep...

Those of us who could climb the ladder were ushered into the loft to lodge. "Sweet restorer balmy sleep" soon brought rest to our weary bodies and minds. The next morning [was] the sabbath of the Lord our God. It hardly seemed as if the same God could be invoked there as in refined and christianized New England.

The tinkling of the cow-bells reminded us of the factory-bells at whose ring we were accustomed to rise in Sturbridge. A few day cast into the background much of our despondency as we applied ourselves to preparing a new home on the tract of land that my father had bot [bought] for that purpose. We obtained permission of Mr. Fay to occupy a new frame barn of his until we could build a domicile of our own. The rains subsided. The roads improved. The birds sang the sun shone and we were all measurably happy and contented.

Curator Notes

Exact Title: 
The Long Journey West in 1825, "Reminiscences," Freeman Family Papers
Probable Date: 
Hand-written scripted ink on paper
Freeman, Lyndon
Old Sturbridge Village
Catalog Code: 
1978.24.2 bv