Continuing with our article from the August 1927 issue of the National Republic:


… But even such companionship would have been welcomed by the congressmen who came from west of the Appalachian Mountains. The laborers and the republicans could have given necessary aid at the time of a mishap.

David Crockett, representative from Tennessee (1827-1831 and 1833-1835), tells in one of his writings of a journeying preacher who needed all his resourcefulness to arouse aid:

“Hurrying up to the river crossing we were struck all of a heap at beholding a man seated in a sulky in the middle of the river, and playing on a fiddle. The horse was up to his middle in the water and it seemed as if the flimsy vehicle was ready to be swept away by the current. Still the fiddler fiddled.

” ‘You have missed the crossing!’ shouted one of my men.

” ‘I know I have,’ returned the fiddler.

” ‘If you go ten feet farther you will be drowned.’

” ‘I know I shall,’ replied the fiddler.

” ‘Turn back,’ cried the man.

” ‘I can’t. Come you and help me.’

“Several who understood the river rode their horses up to the sulky and after some difficulty brought the parson safe to shore. He said that he had been fiddling to the fishes for a full hour and had exhausted all the tunes that he could play without notes. We asked him what induced him to fiddle at a time of such peril. He replied that there was nothing in universal nature so well calculated to draw people together as the sound of a fiddle. He knew he might bawl until he was hoarse for assistance and no one would stir a peg; but that they would no sooner hear the scraping of his fiddle string than they would quit their business and come to the spot in flocks.”

About the time of Crockett there were bits of railroad track in many places. To leave Washington for home, July 2, 1835, Crockett went by stage to Baltimore. From Baltimore he sailed down Chesapeake Bay to “a place where we boarded the railroad cars.” 

“This was a clean new sight to me: about a dozen big stages hung onto one machine and it aimed to start up a hill,” Crockett wrote. “After a good deal of fuss, we moved slowly off, the engine wheezing as if she had the tizzick. By and by she began to take short breaths and away we went with a blue streak after us. The whole distance was seventeen miles and it was run in fifty-five minutes.”

A steamboat took Crockett from Delaware City to Philadelphia. The “fast stage” carried him to Pittsburgh in four days. Here, he boarded an Ohio River boat. After changing boats at Cincinnati, Ohio, and Louisville, Kentucky, he landed at Mills Point, Tennessee. His son there met him with a sulky in which they drove thirty-five miles to the Crockett home.

Maintenance of schedules didn’t mean much to railways or steamboats in those days. Sometimes rain delayed the trains while a steamer captain might “take the notion” to meet the request of a friend. Crockett told of how Captain Stone held his boat and its other passengers at Pittsburgh one day after starting time to wait for the representatives. Then the Wheeling, Ohio, city fathers asked the captain to steam back up the river several miles and enter the port again, so they might fire a salute to Crockett the captain promptly acquiesced.

With various schedules and methods of getting over the ground, it took Crockett twenty days to go from Washington, D.C., to his home. One can now go from the capital to Tokyo, Japan, in about that time. [My, how things have changed — again, and rapidly — since 1927!]

… to be continued …


"the 'Old Atlantic' was an engine of the type that hauled Davy Crockett to Congress in the 1830s" (from the National Republic, August 1927)