Before Mark Twain: A Sampler of Old, Old Times on the Mississippi

By John Francis McDermott | Go to book overview

DECK PASSAGE TO NATCHEZ, 1838

HENRY B. MILLER

[Henry B. Miller from York County, Pennsylvania began keeping a journal in St. Louis on January 1, 1838. Described by his editor as having been at various times "a school teacher, plasterer, and builder of cemetery vaults," he was also an observant diarist. In October of that year he left St. Louis for Natchez as a deck passenger on the steamboat Alton. His journal was published in the Missouri Historical Society Collections, VI (1931), 213-87. The brief omissions are those of his editor, Thomas Maitland Marshall.]

Sunday (October 14th) - Spent the week in making preparations for going down the river to the southern country to spend the winter there; this is very customary in the upper country; many of the mechanics emigrate from the Southern country in the spring & return again in the fall of the year. The distance is but 12 or 1500 miles which is brought near home by our steam boats; so much so that many of the young men here take the notion one day and are off the next and think no more of going to Vicksburg, Natchez, or New Orleans than we formerly did of going but 10 or 15 miles; so much difference do the present facilities of traveling have on us to what the former had. We prepared ourselves for travelling & made choice of the Steam Boat Alton, Capt Holland.

Sunday (October 21st) — Took our things aboard the boat in the morning; went back to the house and bade Farewell to my friends. After getting aboard and bidding Adieu to our Friends that accompanied us down to the river, we pushed off & soon lost sight of St. Louis. We took a deck passage. After making some of the necessary arraingments before hand, we fixed ourselves as well as we could. The boat was very much crowded & some contention amongst the passengers for the rights of the Bunks;

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