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Title: Robert Peel Dawson, Montreal to his parents.
CollectionIrish Emigration Database
FilePeel Dawson, Robert/133
SenderPeel Dawson, Robert
Sender Gendermale
Sender Occupationarmy officer
Sender ReligionProtestant
OriginMontreal, Quebec, Canada
Recipient Gendermale-female
SourceT 850/1: Obtained from Mrs Brackenbury, Moyola Park, Castledawson, Co. Londonderry.
ArchiveThe Public Record Office, Northern Ireland.
Doc. No.8950017
Partial Date
Doc. TypeEMG
LogDocument added by JM 25:10:1993.
Word Count1094
Octr [October?] 12th, 1839
Rue Notre Dame.
My dearest Parents,
My last letter from Philadelphia written on the fifth of September
will have informed you of my having entered on a second Tour through the
United States. I am just returned to Montreal in perfect health, having
concluded a delightful journey & received impressions of the ever varying
beauties of America & its noble rivers which I shall never forget. I left
Montreal on the 26th of August, remained one day at Saratoga and Catskill
Mountains, five at New York and left Philadelphia for Pittsburg on the 7th
of September. We travelled on a railroad on the banks of the Susquehanna and
through a most delightful valley by which it is watered. On that evening
after passing Harrisburg and Chamberslang we exchanged the cars for stages
(alas a sorry change) and began the ascent of the Alleghanies, the noblest
chain of Mountains in this Continent, and which divides the Eastern from
the Western States. The State of Pennyslvania boasts here a most rich and
valuable country, and the magnificent view from the summit of the
Alleghanies comprises one of the most varied and richly productive scenes
that can possibly be imagined. The highest of this range is 6,176 feet from
the level of the sea. The point we crossed varied from two to three thousand
feet. The view from thence is considered the finest in America. We were one
day on the Railroad and two days and two nights in Stage Coaches, so you
may guess that we were tolerably tired when we arrived at Pittsburg. My
Companions were Rous of my own Regiment & Major Deedes of the 34th, who was
Aide de Camp to Sir Peregrine Maitland for some time. I found them most
agreeable and I think three a better number to travel together than two.
Pittsburg is a dirty smoky City and properly called the Birmingham of the
Union. It is situated on two considerable rivers which together take the
name of Ohio, & is a place of considerable mercantile importance. We lost no
time in taking our places in a Steamboat bound for Cincinnati, and then for
the first time I found myself on board one of the High Pressure Machinery.
The muddiness of the Mississippi & Missouri waters into which the Ohio
flows prevents the Low Pressure from being either safe or useful. The noise
proceeding from the funnel I found very disagreeable and resembling the
panting and blowing of a broken winded Horse. They are considered so unsafe
however that no Insurance Office will transact business with those who
reside in the West & who are likely to come in contact with these Steamers.
I however, travelled 2,500 miles in one of them without accident, but I
greatly prefer the low pressure machinery. The Ohio had been for weeks so
low that our progress was necessarily tardy, and numbers of shallow places
and sand banks stretching across the River on which we frequently grounded,
added greatly to the ennui of our journey. Two banks are high and picturesque
though monotonous. The French, who originally settled on it, called
it "La Belle Riviere" and certainly with some justice. The steamer runs
about ten miles an hour and its course is very winding. This River divides
the States of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois (all free) from the
Slave States of Virginia and Kentucky. We arrived on the morning of the 14th
of September at Cincinnati, the Metropolis of the West, in the State of
Ohio. This City, which is extremely rapidly, and improving daily, occupies a
site which thirty years ago was a large forest "Nullo Violata securi". The
State of Ohio now possesses two millions of inhabitants. Forty years ago the
Red Indians were the only tenants of the woods. Now, Cities, Canals,
Railroads & all the civilised features of prosperity & cultivation present
themselves everywhere. Cincinnati has made a most rapid advance in
importance, wealth & commerce and at the last census its population exceeded
forty thousand. We remained in this City till the 16th of September & then
continued our journey down the Ohio as far as Louisville, the chief town in
Kentucky, about 130 miles distant. Louisville is of ancient date and is very
flourishing. During our stay here we went some miles into the interior of
Kentucky to see a large Slave-holder, his plantations and habits. We
examined all the houses appropriated to the slaves & enquired into every
circumstances connected with their condition. They were healthy, well taken
care of & moderately worked. But alas, all instruction is denied to the
Negroes & religion is tacitly forbidden. My opinion is that they are
mentally ill-used, but not bodily. Emancipation would be attended by
consequences the most frightful in the present state of things. The most
revolting study and one which more than I can describe disgusts me with
human tyranny is the contemplation of the Negro population in the United
States. Where is their vaunted liberality, their equality, their defined
rights common to Man? In answer to their boasts, I have never failed to
remind them of their unnatural oppression of the Negroes, their traffic in
human flesh so contrary to the laws of the God & the practice of
the civilized World. From Louisville we went to the junction of the Rivers
Mississippi & Ohio. We had now gone the whole length of the Ohio, 965 miles.
The waters of the Mississippi are of a muddy colour and the stream very
Violent. The heat is here intense, the distance from New Orleans, one
thousand miles, but the journey may be performed in four days, owing to the
assistance afforded by the stream. St. Louis was the next place we visited.
It is a civilized town. We spent a week in the Prairies & had most
excellent shooting. I killed several Pelicans, besides quantities of wild
On lake Huron on our return we encountered very tempestuous weather.
One man on board our steamer died from seasickness. The Falls of Niagara
again astonished & charmed us. We had heavenly weather during our Tour and
on the 8th of October we reached Montreal & again stood under the
protecting Flag of England, having been absent six weeks & three days.
Distances we travelled:-
Montreal to New York by Saratoga
and Catskill Mts. 420 miles
New York to Philadelphia 87 miles
To Pittsburg - 385 miles
To St. Louis 1,300 miles
To Chigago 318 miles
To Detroit 711 miles
To Niagara 340 miles
To Montreal 450 miles
Total of miles 4,011