- Historic Sites
Wisky For The Men
A novelist joins his ancestor on a trip West and discovers in her daily travails an intimate view of a tremendous national migration
April 1993 | Volume 44, Issue 2
“I see the biggest tree I ever see in all my life. I stood by it. It was as high as I could reach to the top of the log after it was cut down. The river is full of people moving. Thare is a good many keel boats that goes up the river loaded.”
The water is high. Some days we make as much as fifty miles.
“We com on very fast and com to Marietee. This town is very Elegant—far before all the others that we have past.”
They are still talking about last spring’s flood in Marietta.
“The water was three feet upon a level in the houses. All over town tha had moved into thare upper rooms. Some and a grate many went in Canoes out of town.”
Another day, another new sight:
“Now below Bellville I see a floating mill built in two boats—the water wheel in between the boats. It is moved anywhere on the water.”
Point Pleasant, where we’d hoped to buy provisions, is a disappointment:
“We could git nothing. It tis a very poor place and the people very lazy. I see no gardens or frute trees. I had flower. I made a cake for supper.”
Gallipolis is much better:
“Went into town—got som bred and corn for our horses—give half a dollar a bushel for corn. This place looked as if the people eat bred and did som work. Tha had fine gardens and frute trees. They are mainly French people.”
Here are two fine spellings, a new monetary unit, and a good laugh:
“Saterday the 15th June. About twelve o’clock left Virjinah and come to Caintucka. Thare is a creek that divides the states called Big Sandy. We put to shore. I went to git some milk. I got a point for a half of a five penabit—the change they save me in bred called pone. I brought it to the boat and it looked so droll that we all laughed hartely.”
A small privation, a small treat:
“we com on all very dry for some good cool water for this day is very warm. Towards night the boys a fishing hollow to us to no if we wanted fish. Tha brought fish to us. We bought too pirch—gave a quarter of a dollar for them.”
Here now is most of the last entry I have and a final revelation of Phoebe Ford Marvin:
“Our men got up in the night—pushed of the boat and took turns a watching. Bently—the man that was with us—”
Just before he is to leave us, I can put together the name of “our stranger,” Elezur Bently, more likely Eleazer Bentley, I would guess.
“went to watch his turn and I sopose lay down and went to sleep (for we found him doin so before) and the boat run on the pint of a Island and struck. We ware all asleep but as soon as we felt the shock we ware out in a minute. What to do we did not no, for the lazy man nue not whare we was. Our fire was out and thare we were in the middle of that grate river expecting every minute to stick fast and new not what the consequences would be. But in a little time we rowed to shore and put up till light, for we new not whare we was till we could see som buddy. Sunrise we set of—went very well—com to old Linnsome town a little after noon and thare our lazy self important man com to his journey’s end and I was glad to get cleer of him.”
I am really quite struck with the way she has withheld expressing her animosity, even to her diary, until the stranger is gone. I am struck with her never having shown her feelings toward her erstwhile traveling companion Mrs. Sampson or even her mother. Phoebe Marvin took people as they came and kept her own counsel. She must have been a very private woman.
I do not know what handsome improvement the Marvins may have built and planted when they settled at Fort Washington. The rest is merely genealogy.
One of their children, a daughter called Narcissa, married Crocker Snow. They were my great-great-grandparents.
Their daughter, Frances Adelia Snow, married Robert Newman John. They were my great-grandparents and had, so far as I know, a son named Herbert, a daughter, Bertha, whose married name was Willard, and Edith, my maternal grandmother, who married Charles Webb.
I have a reason for naming these forebears and for adding that Robert Marvin was Phoebe Ford’s second husband; the first was called Moses Ross.