Ohio History Journal

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There are about 150 Horses, Sixty Cows, & Seven Yoak of Oxen

here. . . . The Emigrants that pass down the river for Kentucky & other

parts of the Western Country are amazing. . . . We have a militia formed

who assemble every Sunday & are fined for not attending. We have preach-

ing or service read regularly once a week, likewise a school.

Thus wrote James Backus1 from Marietta to his parents in

Norwich, Connecticut, on the thirty-first day of December in 1788.

And a few days later, in a letter to his brother, Elijah, he wrote:

This settlement has progressed faster than could have been expected

under so many embarrassments as an undertaking of such magnitude might

be involved: there are thirty families & more than four hundred People

here at this time. The fire of emigration seems to rage with greater' fury

than ever on the other side of the mountains from the number of people

that pass here. There are a number of boats just arrived under the direc-

tion of Col. Morgan of N. Jersey bound to the Mississippi to make a settle-

ment in the Spanish dominions nearly opposite the mouth of the Ohio. A

passage down the river is pleasant & expeditious[.] boats frequently per-

form a journey of a hundred miles in 24 Hours with little more than the

force of the current, which when the Ohio is full runs nearly 4 miles an

hour. The rapid swells in this river subject people who live on its banks

to an inconvenience by taking off or sinking their boats, it frequently rises

6 Feet in a day & night. . . . Game has been very plenty about us till our

people & the Indians killed & drove most of it away. Turkeys however

are easily got at now & fine fatt ones may be bot for a shilling that will

weigh near 20 lb. The Indians are in to the treaty. I suppose about 300

of them, the chiefs of the Senecas, the Cayugas, the Mingows, the Munseys,

the Tuscarawas, the Delewares, Wyandots, Chippewas & Putawatimes are

present, there chiefs have many of them very great influence over their

People & their Government extends further than I could suppose it possible

a persuasive one could extend, they appear friendlyly disposed & it is ex-

pected after some altercation about their boundary lines that the treaty will

be amicably closed.

Unlike so many of the writers of that period, Backus seems

to have anticipated just what details would be of interest to

readers nearly one hundred fifty years later. There is little,


1 Typescript copies have been made of the James Backus letters and documents,

and of many other items of the Woodbridge-Gallaher Collection, and are available for

examination at the Marietta College Library and the Marietta Public Library,

Marietta, Ohio. The originals are in the possession of the Ohio State Archaeological

and Historical Society.