Several days ago, I was looking for something in the CAA library and came across a book I didn’t even know we had: a 1912 reprint of Margaret Van Horn Dwight’s diary, which she kept during her 1810 journey from New Haven, Connecticut, to Warren, Ohio. She had addressed the diary entries to her cousin Elizabeth, and then sent the entire diary to her once she’d reached Ohio.

I’d like to share a bit of it here, as it relates to travel and roads of the era.

From an entry labeled “Friday night — Allegany Mtn” (mid-November, after the party had been on the road for several weeks):

“After a comfortable nights rest, we set out on foot to reach the height of the mtn — It rain’d fast for a long time, & at length began snowing– We found the roads bad past description, — worse than you can possibly imagine– Large stones & deep mud holes every step of the way– We were oblig’d to walk as much as we possibly could, as the horses could scarcely stir the waggon the mud was so deep & the stones so large– It has grown so cold that I fear we shall all perish tomorrow– We suffer’d with cold excessively, to day–

“From what I have seen and heard, I think the State of Ohio will be well fill’d before winter,– Waggons without number, every day go on– One went on containing forty people– We almost every day, see them with 18 or 20– one stopt here to night with 21– We are at a baker’s, near a tavern which is fill’d with movers* & waggoners.”**

* = those moving west with their families

** = those hired by movers to transport them, or those ferrying goods toward Pittsburgh and Ohio