Journal of the Travels of Christian Forrer III (1822), part 1

The United_States, a steamboat on the Hudson, 1821

The United States, a steamboat on the Hudson River, 1821. Drawing by Samuel Ward Stanton, 1895 (Wikimedia)

When I was a kid, I always stayed a week or two at my grandparents’ farm in the summer. My grandmother, as faithfully was she went to church every Sunday, faithfully went to a sale or two every Saturday. By “sale,” which is what she called it, I mean an estate auction. At one, she picked up an old journal, the pages brown, and immediately handed it to me as a gift, saying that I enjoyed such things.

I opened it and began to read. The handwriting was difficult, but I figured out most of the words. And I did enjoy it.

So, it’s been decades now and I really want to share the text with others who will find it interesting. Unfortunately, the front cover separated from the rest of the book and a page or two may be lost, or maybe it just took young Christian a while to start using the journal after he bought it. His spelling is erratic (and sometimes I’ve just corrected it because otherwise autocorrect turns a nonstandard spelling into something absurd). Occasionally it is simply impossible to be read his handwriting — I apologize for the gaps. And he almost NEVER uses a period or comma.

Without any more introduction, let’s begin, and board the steamship for Albany:

A journal of the travels of Christian Forrer the 3rd

Commenced on the 15 April 1822

Bought of a Book Seller in Philadelphia

This penn was maid a present to Christian Forrer the 3rd by De Wit Clinton, Governor of New York.

May the 18 1822 about 4 o’clock in the afternoon I set out in the steam boat up the H. river for Albany the capital of New York, a distance therefrom 160 (?) miles. Lots of passage [passengers, presumably]. This $6 boarding found you in the bargain. We proceeded on without much molestation having about 180 passengers on board. Some of the principle men of the state were on board, Judge Yates the [executive?] governor of the state of New York and two other supreme judges belonging to the state of New York, Judge Spencer and Judge Prat, besides a great many lawyers. Leaving the City of New York was a [illegible] to me. The boat was crowded with citizens from Philadelphia taking leave of their friends. As for myself, I had no friends to leave nor nobody to regret my going. This together with the lively appearance of the people, the threatening appearance of the [?] and [?] the vast forrest of shipping laying in harbor with a grand landscape view of the country [?] around all this combined with the novelty of a boat moved with fire and steam maid appear [?] grand indeed.

We moved at the rate of about 11 miles an hour quite smoothly until about 3 o’clock in the morning when we grounded and were impelled to stay until morning, when by trying to force her off by steam busted one of the conducting pipes. This accident put us out of hopes of reaching Albany. The captain sent an express off to Albany to get the boat Firefly, but having stopped near the exgovernor Lewis’s plantation, the captain got one of the governor’s blacksmiths to examine the pipe which he declared to be easily mended. He was immediately employed and in the coarse of about 6 hours the boat was ready to proceed.

[to be continued]

2 thoughts on “Journal of the Travels of Christian Forrer III (1822), part 1

  1. Wow Donna. This is really cool! Do we know how old Forrer is when he’s writing this? Or what business he has in Albany. I guess if he wasn’t traveling by boat, it would be horse-and-buggy!

  2. I am fairly sure that he is the Christian Forrer who was born in 1801 and died in 1846, so he’s 20 or 21 years old. As he continues his journey he takes stagecoach, canal boat on the Erie Canal, a sloop from Buffalo to Erie under the most miserable conditions, and finally, near Cleveland, he buys a horse and rides for the rest of his travels.

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