Letters Sent Home by Students and Faculty Describing:

Their Travels to Oberlin

Edited by Robert S. Fletcher

A combination Steamboat, Railroad and Canal Boat ticket from New York to Buffalo, issued in 1831

May 22, Room No. 5
Colonial Hall, Oberlin

Mr. Neil Livingstone
Tea Dealer
Almada St.
Hamilton, Scotland

My dear parents and sisters:

You will by this time be very uneasy to hear of my safe arrival at Oberlin. I will now give you an account of all my travels and adventures as far as I can remember. You will by this time have received the letter I wrote from N. York which we reached on Sabbath 29 ult. at 5 oclk. after 31 days sailing across the dark blue sea. Nothing very wonderful occurred, the Passengers were mostly Irish. There were 271 in all 2 died in the voyage. We saw no fish till on the banks of Newfoundland some Grampus. Saw flocks of the stormy petril. Janet will repeat a poem to you about them. Weather very cold rainy and foggy while crossing the banks. We had a fine wind 3 or 4 days. After we got across when we thought we were about 200 miles from N. York it calmed and we were three days scarcely moving, other 2 ships in sight. We tacked every few hours. When on the evening of the 3rd day a fine breese sprung up our Captain did not carry much sail as he thought we were nearer land than what we were. Next morning the wind continued favorable we made all sail we could. Saw another sail about 7 oclk which was a pilot boat (which) made up to us in 5 hours. Got the pilot on board. It was very foggy but cleared away about 2 oclk when we saw land, the Jersey coast. In a little after, when we neared New York the inspectors came on board and were satisfied. They had only time to get on in their small boat when a severe squall came on accompanied by thunder and rain. I was standing below and looked up at the masts. The tops were quite bent. The sailors thought we should have lost them. It was soon over and we came to anchor up at the city. It is a very pretty place but the houses are built quite different from Glasgow or any of our towns. They are mostly built of brick. The streets appeared very strange to me, One house 8 or 4 storeys (sic) high and next house only 1 in some of the streets. I had not much time to look at the city as I was only part of Monday and Tuesday in it. Lodged in Franklin Hall Tavern and Boarding house. Paid 1/6 for getting my chest carried there. I had sold my box to one of the passengers for 1/, bed to the Irish woman who made such a noise that night I got on board. I am sure Father was very sorry to leave me in such a place. The most part of the voyage I wished I was home. * * * * The Irish woman cooked most of my food for me. There was such a crowd around the fire that it was hard work to get near it. In 2 weeks those in the 2 cabin asked the captain to allow them to have a fire by ourselves as the steerage passengers (were) composed of wild Irishmen who kept bullying and fighting always. The Captain consented to this and we were better accommodated afterwards. I had no pot to boil my potatoes in nor frying pan for pork. There was no boiler on board just a common fire. It was not a packet ship as they said in advertisements. The Irish woman boiled my potatoes in a kettle along with her own, fried pork in a small pot, gave me a jar to hold my fresh water. I gave her the coffee pot and potatoes which were left. Some of them were spoiled by sea water that came down the hatch on 2 April and (I sold the) mattress, blanket, mat and sheet for 1/6 at New York. I left N. York on Tuesday afternoon at 5 oclk in the DeWitt Clinton steamer. Paid a small silver coin called Dime 5 Cents to get my chest to the steamer. Other 2 of the passengers had their goods in the same cart so I got it cheaper on that account. One of the man catchers came into the tavern on Monday night and offered to carry all who were going to Buffalo for 7 dollars each, an Englishman engaged with him and was anxious to get me to do so too, but W. Naisneth had warned me to beware of them. It cost 50 cents to Albany. The American steamers are quite differently made from those in Scotland, very large and a cover like another deck above deck where all can walk and sit. When it rains they can go below the upper deck on the second. They are built very large. Some have 4 funnels. The one I was in had 2. When I stood at one end it was quite a sight to look to the other. We reached Albany about 6 next morning, about 150 or 200 miles, where I took canal to Buffalo 363 miles from do (Albany) on the borders of Canada. The canal boats are long and narrow drawn by two horses and very comfortably fitted up to accommodate passengers, cushioned seats and stoves in them. There are upwards of a thousand of them on the canal. I paid one sovereign & 25 cents, being 36 cents less than the common fare. I told them I came from Scotland and paid a great deal for traveling so they took it. We started from Albany about 11 oclk on Wednesday. In the canal boats all fare alike; there is no distinction between rich & poor. All have the same privileges. Towards evening I saw a young man looking at a map of Ohio, pointing out places to some who were going to the state. I went to look at the map & asked him if he knew what part Oberlin College was. Yes, said he, I am a member of it. I told him then that I had come from Scotland to study there. Oh indeed, I wish I had seen you sooner. He then introduced me to a young lady who was returning to Oberlin. His name is Mr. Sherlock Bristol A. B. from Cheshire Connecticut. Ladys name Miss Ingram. He likewise introduced me to Mr. Hatch, a Christian farmer, who was proceeding with his wife and family (2 little girls) to Michawaukee in Indiana state, where he had purchased a farm of 250 acres. I was then considerably releived (sic) as I could get nobody who knew anything about Oberlin. It rained on Wednesday all day and all night and in the morning we learnt that part of the bank of the canal had broken down so we had to stop when we gist about 15 miles from Albany. We ascertained that it would take eight days to mend it. Our boat lay about four miles below Schenectady, the nearest town to us. Mr. Bristol and myself went to it to learn how much a railroad passage would cost to Utica, a town about 70 miles farther on. We found that it would cost us more than our board would in the boat a week, so we thought it was best to stay where we were. I will now tell you how I gist along in regard to food. I had some of the biscuit left and a very small bit of cheese. I bought a loaf in New York like one of your large Rumpies, made of fine flours, for 1/ American money. It lasted several days. When it was done I commenced to my biscuit and cheese. Alas my cheese was done. I was only a wee bit like my (?). I then had to tell the biscuit the cheese had preceded it. They had got very bad but I was glad I had them. I had 4 dollars left but was afraid (to) buy any food less (sic) I should not have enough. I was suffering a good deal by hunger 4 or 5 days when Mr. Bristol asked me how my cash stood me. I told him what I had. He said he was afraid I would hurt myself by hunger and I was not to be afraid to spend some of it buying food as if I needed any money to carry me along he would give me it. He told me that he could feel for me very well when he went first from home to go to Oberlin when he got there he had only 5 dollars (and) very few clothes, but the Lord had provided for him. On Sabbath he preached. There was a great number of boats before us and behind us. Another boat came along side of us. We got a piece of clothe stuck up by 4 poles over his head to protect him from the heat of the sun, which was very warm that day. It was very cold be fore that. His text was Malachi 3 verse 14 first clause of verse. He had my hymn book and gave out the 75 hymn which 3 or 4 sung accompanied by a flute. In the afternoon a person from Vermont read the services from the Church of England and took for his text love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy strength and with all thy soul and they neighbour as thyself. He did not speak anything about the first part of his text but condemhed (sic) the way ministers preached. He appeared to me to be an infidel. In a day or two after Mr. Bristol asked me to go upon deck a little. I went down in a little after. Mr. Bristol came down and said to a man that was sitting a little from me that he had got 4.75. The man said I'll put another 25 to it. Mr. Bristol then observed me and said, 0! I did not know you were here. We were afraid you would injure your health and were collecting a little for you. He then gave me 5 dollars, one pound, and 15 cts sterling. This was Monday or Tuesday, I don't recall which. He told me that when he mentioned it he said to the person who preached from love your neighbors as yourself that now he had an opportunity to show his love to his neighbour, telling him at the same time that he would give one dollar himself and Mr. Hatch would give one dollar also, his loving his neighbour as himself now came to be tried but to appear somewhat consistent with his sermon he gave half a dollar. We sailed on Thursday about noon having lain there 8 days. The canal there was on the banks of the Mohawk river. The canal crosses the river, about 1/4 of a mile from where we lay in the aqueduct. The Mohawk was twice or three times broader than Clyde. Mr. Bristol would not travel on Sabbath & we left the boat on Saturday night at a village called Canastota about 150 miles from Albany. The Captain of the boat would not give us back any of the money we paid him to Buffalo. We might remain on the boat and he would make us as comfortable as he could but he would not give back any of our money. He said Mr. Bristol might preach 3 times on Sabbath on the boat and might do a great deal of good at the same time cheating us out of our money, thus he cheated Mr. Bristol and Miss Ingraham out of seven dollars. I lost three dollars and 30 cts too by him but you will soon see that our heavenly Father will not allow any one to want by serving him. We accordingly landed at Canastota about 7 oclk Saturday night. Mr. Bristol went to look after a house. I stood with Miss Ingram beside our trunks holding my umbrella over her as it was raining. Mr. Bristol could not find accommodations in any of the taverns. They were all full in consequence of a traveling circus being there in the village. He found a store keeper who agreed to lodge us. We came to his house, were very kindly welcomed by the family and provided with an excellent supper, the first good one I had got since I left home except one in N. York. It was a Christian family . We had family worship and then went to a most comfortable feather bed. Mr. Bristol & I slept together. Got up on Sabbath morning about 6. Family assembled together for prayers, breakfast at 7. We then went to the meeting at half past 10. It was the Dutch re formed Lutheran. Mr. McKagg our host is a deacon in it I think. The chapel was built of wood as most of the houses in this country. They are on the outside just like your windows in the Dye works, the one end placed over the top of the under. Most of them are painted white (with) green window shutters. The meeting houses have spires. We had three sermons. On Monday morning when we were coming away Mr. and Mrs. McKagg's sister came to me and asked me to accept that, holding out a piece of paper. I took it and found it to contain 2 dollars and 25 cts. They would take nothing from us for our Lodging. They gave us food and lodging for nothing & gave me that money to help carry me on. Thus you see how the Lord provided for me, guided me to the very boat where Mr. Bristol was, notwithstanding there were so many boats. We took leave of these kind Christian friends on Monday morning at 8 oclk. Mrs. McKagg said that if ever I came that way again I was to visit them. She wished I might always meet with friends. I don't recollect anything in particular that occurred on the canal which is 363 miles long, except we passed a small village called Clyde by a small river beside the canal and Lockport where the canal is raised over a hill by means of five locks. We passed about 12 miles from the falls of Niagara then came to Buffalo when we left the canal and went on board a steamer on Lake Erie. Saw Canada across the Lake. Sailed at eleven o'clock Friday forenoon. We were in Buffalo 3 hours. We could have got to Buffalo from N. York in 7 days had the break not happened in the canal. We might have got there sooner by taking the railroad so far as (?) but it is dearer. Lake Erie is a large fresh water lake 300 miles long and 100 broad I think. Steamboats, sloops and ships sail on it. We arrived at Cleveland a town in the N. of Ohio 31 miles from Oberlin on Saturday 16 May afternoon near 2 oclk. The lake steamers provided no bedding for the steer age passengers. The steerage passage which we took was 2 dollars & one half. We hired a carriage and drove off for Oberlin over one of the worst roads ever I saw. The carriage was hung on springs drawn by two horses. Such a shaking we got on that road I never got before. I stayed during night and Sabbath at the tavern here. Arrived at Oberlin ten oclk that night. We paid 2 dollars each for the carriage. This Tavern does not see any liquors. Heard Mr. Finney & President Mahan preach on 16th of May Sabbath. On Monday Mr. Bristol went to Mr. Burnell the sec. & Treas. and told him about me. He then took me to him. Mr. Burnell is very kind. He told me to come to his house for my food, which I have done ever since. He looked out a room for me *****

Your Aff ion son and brother

C. L.


Oberlin, Sept. 16, 1837

Capt. Zenas Winslow Barre, Mass.

Dear Parents:

I suppose you are waiting with much anxiety to receive a letter from me. And according to engagement I will now direct a few thoughts to you. Surely, Dear Parents, it gives me much pleasure to write to those who have nourished & brought me up & kindly watched over me in the earlier part of my days,-who have checked the leadings of a sinful heart which so often draws the young into paths of vice, - who have done all that was in their power to assist me in the pursuit of my studdies & in the acquirement of that knowledge, which if rightly improved, will make me useful in the world. Separated as we are, we can still communicate to each other our thoughts & feelings, & (as it were) converse with each other through the air.

But to begin at the time when we separated-this was indeed solemn - rendered particularly so by the good advice which you gave us,-in connection with the thought, that we might never, in this world, meet again. The remainder of my time in F. was very much occupied in my schools.

We left the 30th of Aug. on Wednesday. Mr. R. carried us into Providence, where we took the steamboat for N. York. - We had got about 20 miles, when a sudden & severe gale struck upon us, which for a few minutes, rendered the prospects of life, hopeless. There were 3 or 4 hundred on board, I should think, whose lives were all saved by a hairs bredth. - The wind came so sudden & strong, that it tipped the boat up so much that it almost dipped, & would had not all the passengers run immediately upon the upper side of the boat. But thanks be to God. We were enabled to outride the storm & were brought into the haven safe. - But while it was safety for us, - others were overwhelmed in the deep. But a short distance from us a sloop was capsized & two ladies were drowned, while 1 and 2 gentlemen, be sides the crew, were saved and brought on board our boat. - 1 of the 2 gentlemen had $1400 worth of Jewelry lost. A little farther on 2 others were blown over, from the mast of one of them which just stuck above the water, a man was saved in a small boat which went for his relief. - I leave it for you to imagine what must have been the feelings of all in circumstances like these. We need not infer from this that water is more dangerous than land, for this was an uncommon gale - the Cap. said it was one of the most severe ones that he ever witnessed.

Wherever we are, we are in the hands of God-who can say to the waves "Peace! be still!" We arrived in N. Y. the next morning- found Clark & wife at home & well. **** He gave me some collars & a new shirt with a bosom in it, & a nice new stock-& I gave Harriet (an) oil silk apron. We had a very good visit and we all seemed to en joy it. - We started Monday morning for Albany, in a steam boat, up the North River-& had a most delightful time. The river was so smooth that it had the appearance of a mirror. We arrived in Albany about dark-went right on board a line boat, about 200 miles, on the great western canal, which is a slow but safe passage. I then took the packet boat which goes faster, as far as Rochester, & from there the Rail-road to Batavia, & from there by stage to Buffalo - which was (reached) about midnight Saturday. We stayed there over Sunday and took the boat up the lake (Erie)-it was rather stormy & windy so that it was rather rough & made a disagreeable motion - though it was not dangerous. - They usually cross in about 24 hours-but it took us nearly double that time on account of head wind. - We arrived at Cleveland (Ohio) Tuesday night about 9 o'clock - next day we came to Oberlin by stage- found the roads not quite so smooth as our N. England roads-but quite as good as I expected-I have now been here a little more than 2 days & of course not much acquainted yet. But I find the accommodations & everything quite as good as I expected. I have a room in the third story (which are considered the best) with a very fine young man who is in the class forward of me. I like the appearance of the Faculty & all with whom I have formed any acquaintance, very much indeed, & I think it will be with me as it has been with those who have been here sooner "that the longer I stay the better I shall like." I never saw students or any community seem to express so much attachment & friendship to each other as they all do here - both teachers and students. ****

Yours with much affection,



Lorain Co. Oberlin
May 12th,1835

Mr. John Sherwood
Orleanes Co., N. Y.

Dear Parent

Feeling that you are anxious to hear what progress I made in my journey, and how I am pleased with Ohio etc.; I take this opportunity to address you. I did not get a boat at Medina until half past seven o'clock, which was loaded to overflowing. However, I found good company. We arrived in Black Rock Tuesday about the same time of day we left Medina, but not without experiencing considerable difficulty from the ice. At Black rock we found the Steamboat Sandusky, which had come down from Dunkirk on the north of the ice, and then crossed the River. She was going out the next morning at nine o'clock. I therefore embraced the opportunity and took passage for Cleaveland. I missed of seeing Buffalo, that I regretted some. The Sandusky did not leave Black rock however until 12 o'clock. She then started with 400 passengers. We sailed up the river, and in passing though among the ice which is constantly going down the River to get nearer the Canada Shore where there was none; some of the ice got into the pump which of course stopped the operation of the engine. We had then to cast anchor or to float downstream. They chose the former, and throwed out the small one, but it being rock bottom, and the cur rent being very strong the cable parted. They then put down the large one but the effect being the same we concluded that was gone also. We began to think of seeing the falls and also of Sam Patch's leap, but happily, after floating down stream about to the place where we started the cable drew up and we came to a halt. By this time they had got the engine in operation and we started up-stream again. They hauled in the large anchor and found it was broke at the shank. The way that we stopped probably was that the chain passed between two rocks in the River and the stock still being on held us fast. - We stopped on the Canada shore opposite Blackrock, and procured another anchor. I went ashore while we lay there. So I have been into Canada. We started again about six o'clock and had a pleasant passage except the lake was some rough Wednesday night, so much that a number were sea sick. I was not sick at all - I found after we were most to Cleveland that Mr. Shipperd the man who has been the most active in establishing this institution was on board with 3 others on their way to Oberlin. That contributed to make the remainder of my journey increasingly pleasant. We landed at Cleaveland Thursday evening, and (stayed there) the night. After we came past Astrabula (sic) we saw Peach trees in blossom. We came out in the stage the next morning as far as Elyria. From there we journeyed in a wagon which we hired at E. I arrived here Friday about 5 o'clock with as good health and spirits as I left home except I took a little cold coming up the Lake-

I am now in Oberlin, far from my native place and the home of my childhood; and the friends of my youth. But shall I say I am in a land of strangers? No! I cannot say it. I never received a more joyful welcome to any place, than I did to this. No place ever appeared so much like home as Oberlin. All appear to be childern (sic) of one family, each equally concerned for the others happiness. There are now about one hundred and 20 or 30 students here now of both sects (sic) and more are coming. We are very much crowded at present but room is makeing (sic) as fast as possible. I some expect Elisha will come here, if he does I shall be completely at home. I shall commence the study of Greek as soon as the books come on. I like the country much. More by and by. I should like to hear from home as soon as convenient. My love to all. Mr. Hibbard wishes to be remembered to you all. I am your dutiful Son



Dr. and Mrs. James Dascomb came to Oberlin in 1834. Here their distinguished careers as members of the faculty are sufficiently well- known. Unfortunately, only part of the letter which Mrs. Dascomb wrote home to her father upon their arrival in Oberlin is in existence. The page now preserved begins abruptly in the midst of a fire in Rochester!

***** saw through it red light gleaming, & sparks flying about the streets. Aroused from my lethargy, I quickly prepared for flight, if necessary, while Dr. D. went to make enquiries. He soon returned with the information that the Noble Eagle (the hotel) was in jeopardy, as a large building, separated from it by only a small shop was completely enveloped in flames. The dear man then seized upon our "goods & chattels" & presently 4 "great trunks, little trunk, bandbox & bundle" were deposited in the street, a few rods distant. Last (but not least I guess), he returned for the remaining property, & with much ado we pressed thro the crowd that thronged the house, & gained a stand in the street by our trunk where we cd. observe the progress of the flames. I cd. not help smiling in the midst of my flight on thinking of a remark made to Sis. H. when preparing for a journey - "Packing & going seem to be the business of my life." Our Hotel was indeed in danger. It caught fire more than 20 times but the strenuous efforts of the firemen saved it. After remaining an hour in the street till the unfortunate building that caused the alarm was a heap of coal and ashes, we returned to our room, where, in spite of the past, I was soon asleep, forgetful of our trouble and alarm. Next morning the company that met at breakfast seemed very glad to find themselves once more together in safety. We enjoyed the Sabbath, as we cd. be undisturbed in our chamber, & beside were favored with 2 excellent sermons at Church. We were introduced to one of the boarders, a N. Eng. man, & very interesting. Went to meeting with him, etc. Next morning we visited the Gennesee Falls, where Sam Patch took his "last leap." Rochester is a beautiful City. ***** Mon at 11 we again commenced our journey. Tuesday night we stopped at Tonawanda, a village 11 miles from Buffalo, & the next morn with a gent & his son from Boston, we went to visit the Falls of far famed Niagara. I can not take paper to describe the Falls or our emotions on beholding them. This "most remarkable object on the globe" answered our expectations, & we passed a part of the day in wandering over Goat Is land in a state of some mental excitement as you wd. suppose - every now and then we turned out of our course to look again at the Great Falls. But I am alarmed to find my blank paper all vanishing. You will begin to think I am going to keep you as long on my journey as I was myself. But don't complain, for if you are seated in your neat little kitchen, far from all the inconveniences of canal & steam boat, you may think yourself highly favored, tho' your journey be less ad-venturous than mine. Wedn. night we took a Boat for Buffalo, & in that part found ourselves next morning. Found there a Steam boat for Cleveland, & by 9 o'clock were enrolled among its passengers. The lake was very rough, & the Capt. said we might be out a week. Shd. like to picture to you the Ladies' cabin, as it looked an hour or 2 after we began to ride. The Dr. had been in to see how I fared, & (as) one might have suspected he left a trunk of meticks for the poor ladies- but I assure you, we were too much afflicted to think much of the cause. I resolutely determined I wd. not be sick, but wd. administer to the comfort of my companions, for the Boat had only one waiter for the ladies. But in turn, I too was compelled to bow to the omnipotence of fashion, & betake myself to my birth (sic.). I did (not) confine myself to it, however, but when I felt a lit. better, wd. run to the relief of some one, who needed assistance. At one time the waiting maid said, "What a kind creature you are-one minute you will be vomiting, & the next holding somebody's head." The gent's cabin was visited also with the epidemic, & my husband for the first time in his life felt the disagreeables of seasickness. Next day the lake was smooth, & we able to go on deck & admire the scenery on its shores. Arrived at Cleaveland about twilight, our passage having been unexpectedly short. Here we found Mr. Gale, & learned that our suspicions were correct, & that his boat passed C. in the morn, when he was asleep, although he had arisen once or twice during the night to see if he was near our vill. Cleave land is a fine place, plenty of merchants' shops, filled with everything necessary & unnecessary, like those at Concord & N. York. Next morn at 5 we took stage for Elyria, wh. is 10 miles from Oberlin. Road very bad-from ruts & mud-we were in constant danger of overturning. Once when we came to a ditch in the road, the gent. got out & took down the fence so that we cd. turn aside into the adjoining field & ride around the obstacle. At Elyria we dined & obtained a 2 horse wagon to transport us (& 2 gent. from N Eng. going to the Institute as students) to our journey's end. Found the wagon a very comfortable conveyance, & was in no fear of being turned out into the mud, for the driver assured us it cd. not turn over. You can not conceive of a more miserable road than we had-the last 2 miles especially - but still I enjoyed the ride & our party was all very cheerful. When passing thro the woods, I was so delighted with the black squirrels, the big trees, & above all, the beautiful wild flowers, that at times I quite forgot to look out for the "scraggy limbs" that every now and then gave us a rude brush - till a warning from Dr. D. - that I wd. get my eyes torn out, seconded perhaps by an unceremonious lash from a neighboring bough, wd. recall me to the duty of self preservation - glad were we when an opening in the forest dawned upon us, & Oberlin was seen. That, said our driver, is "the City." We rode through its principal street, now & then coming in contact with a stump, till we were set down - not at the Coffee House, or Tea House but the Boarding House. Mr. & Mrs. Waldo greeted us cordially, & I have been "very happy from that day to this. " *****