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A Journal for My Sister

by Mrs. Mary Jane Olmstead   1850

A Journal for My Sister, Elizabeth V. Fuller,
Columbus, Georgia.

This Journal was written by Mrs. Mary Jane Olmstead when she and her husband and three children journeyed from Columbus, Georgia to Wisconsin where they made their home.

April 10th - 1850.
Left Columbus in the morning at two o'clock for Opalika. Having gone to bed with a sick headache felt little prepared for undertaking so long a journey, but had engaged seats and felt almost compelled to go. We were all sick from riding in the stage. Arrived at Montgomery at two in the evening. Have been trying to take some rest as my head still continues to ache.

April 11th -
Have spent the day very pleasantly with our friends in Montgomery. Mrs. Pomroy and Jane Elisa came and staid with us until nine o'clock at night, wishing to see us take the boat which we were to do at eight but did not until eleven. We walked about the city a little, visited Mr. T's store. Went to see the Capitol which is building and is very beautiful. Was much pleased with the diversity of scenery about Montgomery. Feel quite well today. The children seem to enjoy themselves very much today. Eudora in particular feels quite unwilling to leave Jane Elisa.

April 12th -
Came on board a boat called the Emperor which is finely furnished said to be the best on the river last night. Have stopt at several places today. Selma and Cahawba were the only places worthy of notice.

April 13th -
The Sabbath boat is crowded and very warm. The company are very agreeable, The water is very high and overflows much of the land on the river. Shall arrive in Mobile about ten o'clock tonight and remain on board until morning.

April 14th -
Came on board the St. Charles this morning bound for N. Orleans. Stopt for freight and passengers at Beloxi and Mississippi City. Went aground which detained us two hours. We have several French Ladies on board besides some Creoles.

April 15th -
Came into Lake Pontchatrain this morning, find it very rough - have all been very sea-sick. We stop six miles from the city and take the cars which carry us into New Orleans. Having rode around the city a short time as the only means of seeing it, we had our baggage conveyed to Iowa, the name of the boat which is to start up the river this evening, a very large boat.

April 16th -
In coming out at night from N. Orleans we pass the most beautiful places in the night, but we have this morning passed some beautiful places but on the east side of the river the land is much overflown. Stopt for freight, went on shore about noon with some ladies and gathered flowers which together with Picourns are very abundant here. In consequence of a sudden break in the levee the walks in the flower garden had been dug up to stop the crevasses. The owner told us they expected to be obliged to leave the river entirely. Houses here on the bank stand three and four feet in water which is common every year. Passed Baton Rouge, the capital of Louisiana, at 4 this evening, situated on an elevation. The state house presents a beautiful appearance from the river.

April 17th -
The land begins to look broken. We have several children on board. We have bought Eudora a doll and Eddy a little hobby-horse to amuse them on this long trip up to St. Louis, a distance of twelve hundred miles. We expect to reach there in seven or eight days. We passed Natches about eleven. Can see but little of the town except the wharf as it is back among the hills. The weather is pleasant the nights are beautiful and light which is very favorable.

April 18th -
Passed Vicksburg last night. The river is still high and the land occasionally overflown. We sometimes see a cottage between the hills which looks quite romantic. The towns are all built on hills so that we see but little of them except their wharves.

April 19th -
We are still floating on the bosom of the father of waters as the Mississippi is oftentimes called, listening to the murmur of its stream and catching the various objects on its banks which fast recede and its place is filled by new ones. There are some beautiful situations on its banks. The country back from the river we know nothing of. We are moving along the line of Arkansas, sometimes we pass a little village and stop a few minutes but do not go off the boat, They look quite pleasant. The gentlemen amuse themselves by playing cards from morning until midnight. Large sums have been lost and won since we left Orleans. The ladies are sometimes upon deck but more commonly are engaged in some form of needlework so that we present the appearance of a large family instead of a congregation of strangers met by accident soon to part to meet no more. Some I feel already attached to and shall regret parting with, Mrs. Anderson and her sister Mrs. Schafer, Danish ladies from Columbus (with Mr. Anderson and Mr. Rankin from Columbia) are very pleasant. They are going to St. Louis on a visit to their sister.

April 20th -
It is again the Sabbath but one would scarcely think it should they lose the day of the week. One or two read the Bible some read periodicals but more are engaged in frivolous conversation. We passed Memphis at daylight this morning -- peeped out of my state-room window and saw a slight view of the town. Liked the appearance of it, it is very high. We took on quite a number of passengers three ladies and two children.

April 21st -
The weather is very cool this morning. Passed the mouth of the Ohio river about one o'clock a little town on one side of the river called Cairo and one on the other called Ohio City. Took on more passengers and among them three children. People must be traveling for the health of their children as we have 16 with us which makes at times quite a confusion as some of them are rather noisy.

April 22nd -
This is the eighth day since we left N. Orleans hope to get to St. Louis tonight. The land on shore begins to present a more pleasant appearance instead of low flat lands half covered with water. The land rises in gentle undulations and we are often passing little villages. We are now passing Jefferson Barracks 12 miles below St. Louis where United States troops are stationed. There are a number of shot-towers along here on the banks of the river.

April 23rd -
Arrived at St. Louis last night at sundown, went to the Missouri hotel. Shall take the boat Robert Fulton to go up the Illinois river this evening. Intended to ride around the city a little but as it commenced raining we were obliged to go to the boat without. Find the boat will not go until morning. The passengers all very disappointed but all obliged to wait the pleasure of the captain.

April 24th -
The boat went out at ten this morning with a band of music on board which will render it quite pleasant. It is astonishing to see how much traveling there is done on these rivers. Hundreds of boats running yet every boat that we have been on is crowded. We go to the head of navigation on this river which is La Salle. Have just passed the mouth of the Missouri river. A little above on the Illinois side we pass Alton built upon cliffs one of the most romantik looking places I have seen, and here are to be seen the Chickasaw Bluffs with perpendicular projections which look as if done by the skill of man but are nature's own productions. In looting I almost imagine an Indian as I have seen in pictures of them sitting on these points overlooking the river so wild is the appearance of this place which extends several miles. We have stopped for wood and Mr. Olmstead has taken Eddy on shore to give him a little run on the green grass which is great to him.

April 25th -
We have been running up the Illinois river since four o'clock yesterday. The banks here are in many places overflown. The inhabitants are beginning to garden and the Red bud is just coming into bloom. We have passed several little towns. Peoria is the principal one and is the pleasantest site for a town that we have passed since leaving St. Louis.

April 26th -
Arrived this morning at La Salle where we take the canal at eight. Have had to ride twenty miles about forty passengers in wagons on account of a break in the canal across the open prairie with the wind blowing a perfect gale. This with the exception of the staging from Columbus to Opelika in the only really unpleasant traveling that we have had as the weather has been constantly pleasant no bad weather since we left Columbus.

April 27th -
Arrived at 7 this morning within four miles of Chicago where we waited until eleven for a steamboat to tow us into town. Have got in at last and have put up at the Sherman House. Mr. Olmstead has gone out to call on a cousin of his who resides here by the name of Grey. It is the Sabbath again and we are still traveling. How I should like to spend it with my friends far south. Mr. Olmstead has returned and Mr. Grey with him insists upon our spending a day or two with them.

April 28th -
Have concluded to spend one day here and visit our friends. Took an omnibus and came down here. Find them a very pleasant family surrounded with all the conveniences peculiar to the North as well as many of the elegancies. Chicago is quite a pleasant as well as a great commercial place.

April 29th -
Left Chicago at twelve today on the steamer Pacific for Milwaukee. We have had a very rainy windy day which makes the Lake unusually rough, so much so that we are all a little sick except Mr. Olmstead who is more fortunate than usual.

April 30th -
Arrived here last night at nine. Went to the American house. Mr. Olmstead went out to see cousin Sherman whose office is nearly opposite here. He prints a daily as well as a weekly paper called the Free Soil Democrat. He is said to be a very able editor. Cousin Sherman came with him and after a warm greeting went and brought his wife. We went home with them. Find her very pleasant. She spends much of her time in writing. Their house is filled with literature and the fine arts which calls around them a literary society. Have come back to the hotel to be in readiness to take the stage at four o'clock in the morning for Waupun a distance of eighty miles.

May 1st -
Came out this morning and find the ground covered with snow and the wind whistling mournfully. Noon the weather moderated. They say that it is quite an unusual storm for the season. Stop at three this evening at Watertown where we wait for the stage in the morning. Some part of the country is quite pleasant. It is we are told settling very fast.

May 2nd -
Left here at five this morning for Waupun where we end our journeying for the present. We have passed some extensive prairies and some small beautiful lakes but the inhabitants in many places are obliged to bore wells for water. Have arrived here. Found Uncle Spoor gone, Aunt almost overcome with emotion on seeing us although they were expecting us, but not so soon. She has changed but little compared with what might have been expected.

Note: Under date of April 30th she speaks of seeing her cousin Sherman. This was Sherman Booth, rabid Anti-Slavery exponent, and his paper, The Free Soil Democrat was published in a building which has recently been torn down to allow for expansion of the Gimbel store. He aided a Missouri slave named Glover to escape from the Milwaukee jail. A body of citizens roused by Booth stormed the jail, releasing Glover, who was started on his way to Canada. For his part in this and like events Mr. Booth was arrested under the fugitive Slave act and was in and out of jail from 1854 to 1861, being finally pardoned. The Sunday Milwaukee Journal wrote up this history last winter, among other reminiscences.

Olmstead, Mary Jane. "A Journal for my sister, Elizabeth V. Fuller" Unpublished ms. 1850.
Owned by the State Historical Society of Wisconsin Archives: SC 1318