Monday, December 08, 2008

An English Traveler in Indiana

Of the foreign visitors who published accounts of their travels in the USA, the English author Harriet Martineau (1802-76) was one of the most noted. Her comments were often caustic. She had nothing but praise, however, for members of a Brethren family living between Laporte and Michigan City, Indiana, whom she met in 1836 when her stagecoach was blocked by poor roads and bad weather:

"A family lived at hand, who hospitably offered to receive us; and we were only too ready to accept their kindness ... We perceived by a glance at the beard and costume of our host, that there was something remarkable about him. He was of the Tunker sect of Baptists, ... a very peculiar sect of religionists. He explained without any reserve, his faith, and the reasons on which it was founded. ... His wife won our hearts by the beauty of her countenance, set off by the neat plain dress of her sect. She was ill, but they made us thoroughly comfortable, without apparently discomposing themselves. Sixteen out of seventeen children were living; of whom two sons and five daughters were absent, and six sons and three daughters at home; the youngest was three years old.

"Their estate consists of eight hundred acres, a large portion of which is not yet broken up .... He has thus become worth 40,000 dollars in the three years which have elapsed since he came out of Ohio. ... The house, log-built, consisted of three rooms; two under one roof; and another apparently added afterwards. There were also out-houses. In one of these three rooms, the cooking and eating went on; another was given to us ladies, with a few of the little children; and in the other, the rest of the family, the gentlemen of our party, and another weatherbound traveller, slept.

"Huge fires of logs blazed in the chimneys; two or three of the little ones were offered us as handmaidens; and the entire abode was as clean as could be imagined. Here was comfort! ... Our sleep amid the luxury of cleanliness and hospitality, was most refreshing. ... When it had come to saying farewell, our hostess put her hands on my shoulders, kissed me on each cheek, and said she had hoped for the pleasure of our company for yet another day. For my own part, I would willingly take her at her word, if my destiny should ever carry me near the great lakes again."

Source: Don Durnbaugh in the Brethren Encyclopedia
from H. Martineau, Society in America (1837)