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TRAVEL, TAVERN, AND TURNPIKE
WHEN New England was colonized, the European emigrants were forced to content themselves with the rude means of transportation which were employed by the aborigines. The favorite way back and forth from Plymouth to Boston and Cape Ann was by water, by skirting the shore in birchen pinnaces or dugouts hollowed pine logs about twenty feet long and two and a half feet wide in which Johnson said the savages ventured two leagues out at sea. There were few horses, and the few were too valuable for domestic work to be spared for travel, hence the journeyer must go by water, or on foot. When Bradstreet was sent to Dover as Royal Commissioner, he walked the entire distance there, and back to Boston, by narrow Indian paths.
The many estuaries and river-mouths that intersected the coast also made travel on horseback difficult. Foot-passengers, however, could cross the narrow streams by natural ford-ways, or on fallen trees, which were ordered to be put in proper place by the colonial government; and the broader rivers by canoe ferries. We see, through the record of one journey, the dignified Governor of Massachusetts carried across the ford-ways pick-a-pack on the shoulders of his stalwart Indian guide.
But soon the settlers, true to their English instincts and habits, turned their attention to the breeding of horses. They imported many fine animals, and the magistrates framed laws intended to improve the imported stock. The history of horse-raising in New England is akin to that of any other country, save in one respect. In Rhode Island the breeding of horses resulted in that famous and first distinctively American breed the Narragansett Pacers.
The first suggestion of horse-raising in Narragansett was, without doubt, given by Sewall's father-in-law, Captain John Hull, of Pine Tree Shilling fame, who was one of the original purchasers of the Petaquamscut Tract, or Narragansett, from the Indians.
He wrote, in April, 1677:
"I have often thought if we, the partners of Point Judith Neck did fence with a good stone wall at the north end thereof, that no kind of horses or cattle might get thereon, and also what other parts thereof westerly were needful, and procure a very good breed of large and fair mares and horses, and that no mongrel breed might come among them, we might have a very choice breed for coach horses, some for the saddle and some for draught; and in a few years might draw off considerable numbers and ship them for Barbadoes Nevis or such parts of the Indies where they would vend."
This scheme was doubtless carried into effect, for in 1686 Dudley and his associates ordered thirty horses to be seized in Narragansett and sold to pay for building a jail.
In a later letter Hull accuses William Heiffernaan of horse-stealing, and shows that a different and more gentle method than Western lynch-law was pursued by the Eastern settlers. He writes:
"I am informed that you were so shameless that you offered to sell some of my horses. I would have you know that they are by God's good Providence, mine. Do you bring me some good security for my money that is justly owing and I shall be willing to give you some horses that you shall not need to offer to steal any."
Whatever the means may have been that tended to the establishment of a distinct breed of horses, the result was soon evident; by the early years of the eighteenth century the Narragansett Pacers were known throughout the colonies as a desirable breed of saddle-horses.
The local conditions for raising this breed were favorable. The soil of Narragansett was rich, the crops large, the natural formation of the land made it possible to fence it easily and with little expenses thing of much importance in a new land. The bay, the ocean, and the chain of half salt lakes surrounding the three sides, left but a short northern length for stone wall, as Hull suggested.
It is said that the progenitor or most important sire of this race was imported from Andalusia by Governor Robinson. Another tradition is that this horse, while swimming off the coast of Spain, was picked up by a Narragansett sloop and brought to America. Thomas Hazard contributed to the quality of endurance in the breed by introducing into it the blood of "Old Snip." So celebrated did the qualities of this horse become that the "Snip breed" was not only spoken of with regard to the horses, but of the owners as well, and Hazards who did not possess the distinguishing race-characteristic of self-will were said not to be "true Snips." Old Snip was said to have been imported from Tripoli; others assert (and it is generally believed) that he was a wild horse running at large in the tract near Point Judith.
In the year 1711 Rip Van Dam, a prominent citizen of New York, and at a later date Governor of the State, wrote to Jonathan Dickinson, an early mayor of Philadelphia, a very amusing account of his ownership of a Narragansett Pacer. The horse was shipped from Rhode Island in a sloop, from which he managed to jump overboard, swim ashore, and return home. He was, however, again placed on board ship, and arrived in New York after a fourteen-days' passage, naturally much reduced in flesh and spirits. From New York he was sent to Philadelphia by post that is, ridden by the post-rider. The horse cost £32, and his freight cost fifty shillings. He was said to be "no beauty though so high priced, save in his legs." "He always plays and acts and never will stand still, he will take a glass of wine, beer or cyder, and probably would drink a dram on a cold morning." The last extraordinary accomplishment doubtless showed contamination from the bad human company around him, while the swimming feat evinced his direct descent from the Andalusian swimmer.
Dr. McSparran, rector of the Narragansett church from 1721 to 1759, wrote a little book called "America Dissected," in which he speaks thus of the Narragansett Pacers:
"The produce of this country is principally butter, cheese, fat cattle, wool and fine horses that are exported to all parts of English America. They are remarkable for fleetness and swift pacing and I have seen some of them pace a mile in a little more than two minutes and a good deal less than three minutes. I have often upon the larger pacing horses rode fifty, nay sixty miles a day even in New England where the roads are rough, stony and uneven."
In the realm of fiction we find testimony to the qualities of the Narragansett Pacers. Cooper, in the "Last of the Mohicans," represents his heroines as mounted on these horses, and explains their characteristics in a footnote, and also in the dialogue of the story. He says that they were commonly sorrel-colored, and that horses of other breeds were trained to their gait. It is true that horses were trained to pace. Rev. Mr. Thatcher wrote in 1690 of teaching a mare to amble by cross-spanning, and again by trammelling. Logs of wood were placed across a road at certain intervals to induce a pacing gait. As late as the year 1770 men in Ipswich followed the profession of pace-trainer; but I doubt whether any other breed could ever acquire the peculiar gait of the Narragansetts, of which Isaac Hazard thus wrote: "My father described the motion of this horse as differing from others in that its backbone moved through the air in a straight line without inclining the rider from side to side, as does a rocker or pacer of the present day." That motion could scarcely be taught.
Many traits joined to make the Narragansett Pacers so eagerly sought for. Not only was their ease of motion an absolute necessity, but sureness of foot was also indispensable; this quality they also possessed. They were also tough and enduring, and could travel long distances. The stories told of them seem incredible. It was said that they could travel one hundred miles in a day, over rough roads, without tiring the rider or injury to themselves, provided they were properly cared for at the end of the journey.
There was not only in America a steady demand for these horses, but in the West Indies, as Hull predicted, they found a ready market. One farmer sent annually a hundred pacers to Cuba, and agents were sent to Narragansett from Cuba with orders to buy pacers, especially full-blooded mares, at any prices. Agents from Virginia also purchased pacers for Virginian horse-raisers. The newspapers of the latter part of the eighteenth century especially of the Connecticut press abound in advertisements of horses of the "true Narragansett breed," yet it is said that in the year 1800 but one full-blooded Narragansett Pacer was known to be living. In the War of 1812 the British man-of-war Orpheus cruised the waters of Narragansett Bay, and her captain endeavored through agents to obtain a Narragansett Pacer as a gift for his wife, but in vain not a horse of the true breed could be found.
It has been said that the reckless exportation to the West Indies caused this extermination, but it is difficult to believe that so shrewd a race as were the Narragansett planters ever would have committed such a killing of a goose of golden eggs. The decay of the race was the action of a simple law cause and effect. The conditions which rendered the pacer so desirable did not exist after the Revolution. Roads were improved, carriages became common, the saddle less used, and the American trotter was evolved, who was a better carriage horse, and a more useful one, as he could be employed for both light and heavy work, while heavy draughting stiffened the joints of the pacer, and destroyed the very qualities for which he was most valued. Thus, being no longer needed, the Narragansett Pacer ceased to exist.
There died in Wickford, R. I., a few years ago, a Narragansett Pacer that was nearly full blooded. She was a villainously ugly animal of faded, sunburnt sorrel color. She was so abnormally broad-backed and broad-bodied that a male rider who sat astride her was forced to stick his legs out at a most awkward and ridiculous angle. That broad back carried, however, most comfortably a side-saddle or a pillion. Being extremely short-legged this treasured relic was unprecedentedly slow, and altogether I found the Narragansett Pacer, though an object of great pride and even veneration to her owner, not all my fancy had painted her.
From the earliest days when horses were imported, women rode on pillions behind the men. Lechford in his note-book refers to a "womans pillion" lost on the Hopewell. A pillion was a cushion strapped on behind a man's saddle, and from it sometimes hung a small platform or double stirrup on which a woman rider could rest her feet. One horse was sometimes made also to carry two men riding astride. Horseflesh was also economized by the ride-and-tie system, two persons would start on horseback, ride a mile or two, dismount, tie the animal by the roadside, leaving him for another couple (who had started afoot) to mount, ride on past the first couple, and dismount and tie in their turn.
Coaches were not a wholly popular means of conveyance in the first half of the seventeenth century, even among Englishmen on English roads, and they would have been wholly useless in New England. John Winthrop had one in 1685. Sir Edmund and Lady Andros rode in a coach in Boston in 1687, and there were then a few other carriages in town. Their purchase and use were deplored and discouraged by Puritan authorities, as were other luxurious fashions. Outside of the town wheeled vehicles were of little use as they had to be lashed clumsily in two canoes and laboriously ferried across the rivers, while the horses were similarly transferred to the opposite shore, or allowed to swim over. The early carriages were calashes and chariots. Henry Sharp of Salem had a calash in 1701. William Cutler's "collash with ye furniture" was worth £10 in 1723. Chairs two-wheeled gigs without a top and chaises, a vehicle with similar body and a top, were early forms of carriages. The sulky had in early days, as now, seating room but for one person. All these were hung on thorough braces instead of springs.
In an account of the funeral of Lieutenant Governor Tailor, in 1732, it is mentioned that a "great number of the gentry attended in their coaches and chaises;" but even by that date coaches were of little avail for long journeys. The anxious letters of Waitstill Winthrop to his son in 1717, at the latter's proposal of bringing a coach overland from Boston to New London, show the obstacles of travel. He warns that there are no bridges in Narragansett; he urges him to bring a mounted servant with an axe to "cut bows in the way," "to bring a good pilate that knows the cart ways," to be sure to keep the coachman sober, to have axle and hubs prepared for rough usage and in every way discourages so rash an endeavor.
Though I have seen a New England inventory of the year 1690 in which a "sley" appears, I do not find that they were frequently used until the second or third decade of the succeeding century, though a few Bostonians had them in the year 1700. They were largely used by the Dutch in New York, and Connecticut folk occasionally followed Dutch fashions.
When sedan-chairs were so fashionable and plentiful in England, they were sure to be used to some extent in New England towns. Governor Winthrop had a very elegant Spanish sedan-chair, which was given him in 1646 by Captain Cromwell, who captured it from a Spanish galleon. This fine chair was worth £50 and was an intended gift of the Viceroy of Mexico to his sister. When Parson Oxenbridge was striken with apoplexy in the pulpit of the First Church in Boston, he was "carried home in a Cedan." On August 3, 1687, Judge Sewall wrote in his diary: "Capt. Gerrish is carried in a Sedan to the Wharf and so takes boat for Salem." Again he writes on May 31, 1715: "The Gov'r comes first to Town, was carried from Mr. Dudleys to the Town-House in Cous. Dumers Sedan; but 'twas too tall for the Stairs, so was fain to be taken out near the top of them." The Governor had had a bad attack of gout.
On September 11, 1706, Sewall writes: "Five Indians carried Mr. Bromfield in a chair." And though I have never seen the sale of a sedan mentioned, several times I have fancied that the reference to the sale of a chair meant a sedan-chair. In the memoirs of Eliza Quincey she speaks of riding in a sedan, and of seeing Dr. Franklin in one in 1789.
At a surprisingly early date, when we consider the limited opportunities for travel, the colonial authorities licensed taverns or ordinaries, and also made strict laws governing them. The landlords could not sell sack or strong water; nor permit games to be played in their precincts; nor allow dancing or singing; nor could tobacco be used within their walls; nor could they sell cakes or buns indiscriminately. Samuel Cole, the Boston comfit-maker, received his license in 1634, though one can hardly understand, with such manifold rules of narrow limit, how he could wish it. Previously other freemen had obtained permission "to draw wine and beer" to sell at retail to their neighbors and to travellers. In New Haven the tavern-keeper had been given twenty acres of land in 1645, in which travellers' horses could be pastured. In Hartford and other river towns the establishment of taverns was compulsory. The ordinaries quickly multiplied in number and increased in pretension. In Boston, in 1651, the King's Arms and its furniture were held to be worth £600. Board was cheap enough. In 1634 the Court set the price of a single meal at sixpence, and an ale quart of beer at a penny. At the Ship Tavern a man had "fire and bed, dyet, wyne and beere between meals" for three shillings a day. The wine was limited to "a cupp each man at dynner & supp & no more." Following the English fashion of Shakespeare's time, the inn chambers were each named: The Exchange Chamber, Rose and Sun Chamber, Star Chamber, Court Chamber, Jerusalem Chamber, etc. The names of the inns also followed English nomenclature: The Bunch of Grapes, Dog & Pot, Turk's Head, Green Dragon, Blue Anchor, King's Head, etc. The Good Woman bore on its painted sign the figure of a headless woman. The Ship in Distress had these lines:
"With sorrows I am compassed round,
Pray lend a hand my ship's aground."
Another Boston tavern had this rhyme:
This is the bird that never flew,
This is the tree that never grew,
This is the ship that never sails,
This is the can that never fails."
The Sun Tavern bore these words:
"The Best Ale and Beer under the Sun."
This tavern was removed to Moon Street, and was kept by Mrs. Milk. Her neighbors' names were Waters, Beer, and Legg. The Salutation Inn, with its sign-board bearing the picture of two men shaking hands, was commonly known as the Two Palaverers.
I know no more attractive picture of olden-time hospitality, nothing better "under the notion of a tavern," than the old Palaverer tavern at Medford. On either side of its front door grew a great tree, and in the spreading branches of each tree was built a platform or balcony. The two were connected by a hanging bridge or scaffolding, and also connected by a similar foot-bridge with the tavern itself. In these leafy tree-arbors, through the sunny summer months, from dawn till twilight, whilom travellers rested and drank their drams, or, perchance, their cups of tea, and watched the arrival and departure of coaches and horsemen at "mine inn."
John Adams wrote frequently of the inns of the time. He said of the Ipswich innkeeper in 1771: "Landlord and Landlady are some of the grandest people alive. Landlady is the great granddaughter of Governor Endicott, and has all the notions of greatest family. As to Landlord, he is as happy, and as big, as proud, as conceited as any nobleman in England, always calm and good-natured and lazy."
Of the Enfield landlord he wrote: "Oated and drank tea at Peases a smart house and landlord truly; well dressed with his ruffles &c. and upon inquiry I found he was the great man of the town, their representative as well as tavern-keeper." In a paper which he wrote upon licensed houses, Adams stated that "retailers and taverners are generally, in the country, assessors, selectmen, representatives, or esquires."
Members of our best and most respected families throughout New England were innkeepers. The landlord was frequently a local magistrate, a justice of the peace, or a sheriff. Notices of town-meetings, of elections, of new laws and ordinances of administration were posted at the tavern, just as legal notices are printed in the newspapers nowadays. Bills of sales, of auctions, records of transfers were naturally posted therein; the tamras were the original business exchanges. No wonder all the men in the township flocked to the tavern they had to know anything of town affairs, to say nothing of local scandals. Distances were given in almanacs of the day, not from town to town, but from tavern to tavern.
Of the good quality of New England inns many travellers testify. Lafayette wrote to his wife in 1777: "Host and hostess sit at the table with you and do the honors of a comfortable meal, and on going away you pay your fare without higgling." Dr. Dwight said the best old-fashioned New England inns were superior to any of the modern ones. Brissot said: "You meet with neatness, dignity and decency, the chambers neat, the beds good, the sheets clean, supper passable, cyder tea punch and all for fourteen pence a head." Alackaday! the good old times.
Next in importance to the landlord came the stage-driver. He was so popular and such a kindly fellow that he had to be prohibited by law from carrying any parcels or letters for persons along the route, else he were overburdened with troublesome and hindering business, detrimental to the postal and carriage income of the government, He was so importuned to drink at each stopping-place that he might have lain drunk the whole year round. He was of so much consequence and so looked up to, that little Jack Mendum, who drove the Salem mail-coach, hardly exaggerated his position when he roared out angrily to a hungry passenger who urged him to drive faster: "While I drive this coach I am the whole United States of America." Stage-driving was an hereditary gift; it went in families. Four Potters, three Ackermans, three Annables drove in Salem. Patch and Peach, Tozzer and Blumpy, Canney and Camp, were well-known stage-driving names.
The stage-agent also, that obsolete functionary, was a man of much local consequence and of many affairs; he was established in many a tavern as a necessary and almost immovable piece of bar-room furniture.
To show the importance of tavern, tavern-keeper, stage-agent, and stage-driver in early Federal days, let me give a single instance. Haverhill was the great staging centre of New Hampshire; six or eight lines of coaches left there each day. There were lines direct to Boston, New York, and Stanstead, Canada. Of course there was a vast bustle and commotion on the arrival and departure of each coach, and a goodly number of passengers were deposited at the tavern that formed the each office sometimes one hundred and fifty a day. It can readily be seen what a news centre such a tavern must have been, how much knowledge of the world must have been gathered by its occupants. It must be remembered that our universal modern source of information, the newspaper, did not then exist; there were a few journals, of course, of scant circulation, but of what we now deem news they contained nothing. Information of current events came through hearing and talking, not through reading. Hence it came to be that an innkeeper was not only influential in local affairs, but was universally known as the best-informed man in the place; reporters, so to speak, rendered their accounts to him; items of foreign and local news were sent to him; he was in himself an entire Associated Press.
The earliest roads for travel throughout New England followed the Indian trails or paths, and were but two or three feet wide. The Old Plymouth or Coast Road, of much importance because connecting Boston and Plymouth, the capitals of separate colonies, was provided for by action of the General Court in 1639. It ran through old Braintree. The Old Connecticut Road or Path started from Cambridge, ran to Marlborough, thence to Grafton, Oxford, and Woodstock, and on to Springfield and Albany. It was intersected at Woodstock by the Providence Path, which ran through Narragansett and Providence plantations, and also by the Nip-muck Path which came from Norwich.
The New Connecticut Road ran as did the old road, from Boston to Albany. It was known at a later date as the Post Road. From Boston it ran to Marlborough, thence to Worcester, thence to Brookfield, and so on to Springfield and Albany.
The famous Bay Path, laid out in 1673, left the Old Connecticut Path at Happy Hollow, now Wayland, and ran through Marlborough to Worcester, Oxford, Charlton, and Brookfield, when it separated in two paths, one the Hadley Path running to Ware, Belchertown, and Hadley, and the other returning to the Old Connecticut Path and on to Springfield.
An inexplicable charm still attaches itself to these old Indian paths, a delight in attempting to trace their unused and overgrown roadways, as they leave the main road in devious twists and turns till they again join its beaten way. And the halo of early romance and adventure surrounds them. Holland felt the charm when he wrote thus of the Bay Path:
"It was marked by trees a portion of the distance and by slight clearings of brush and thicket for the remainder. No stream was bridged, no hill graded, and no marsh drained. The path led through woods which bore the mark of centuries, over barren hills that had been licked by the Indian hounds of fire, and along the banks of streams that the seine had never dragged. A powerful interest was attached to the Bay Path. It was the channel through which laws were communicated, through which flowed news from distant friends, and through which came long, loving letters and messages. That rough thread of soil chopped by the blades of a hundred streams was a bond that radiated at each terminus into a thousand fibres of love and interest and hope and memory. Every rod had been prayed over by friends on the journey and friends at home."
Hawthorne felt it also and said:
"The forest-track trodden by the hob-nailed shoes of these sturdy and ponderous Englishmen has now a distinctness which it never could have acquired from the light tread of a hundred times as many moccasins. It goes onward from one clearing to another, here plunging into a shadowy strip of woods, there open to the sunshine, but everywhere showing a decided line along which human interests have begun to hold their career. And the Indians coming from their distant wigwams to view the white man's settlement marvel at the deep track which he makes, and perhaps are saddened by a flitting presentiment that this heavy tread will find its way over all the land, and that the wild woods, the wild wolf, and the wild Indian will alike be trampled beneath it."
For many years these paths were travelled, gradually widening from foot-paths to bridle-ways, to cart-tracks, to carriage-roads, until they became the post-roads, set thick with cheerful country homes. In some portions of New England they still are travelled and form the general thoroughfare, but in many lonely townships the old paths are deserted, and traffic and passage over the post or county road is gone forever. Bushes flourish and meet gloomily across the grass-grown track; forest trees droop heavily over it in summer and fall unheeded across it in winter. On either side moss-grown, winter-killed apple-trees and ancient stunted currant-bushes struggle for life against sturdy young pine and spruce and birch. Many a rod of heavy tumble-down stone wall New England Stonehenges may be seen, not as of old dividing cleared and fertile fields, but in the midst of a forest of trees or underbrush:
"Far up on these abandoned mountain farms
Now drifting back to forests wild again,
The long gray walls extend their clasping arms
Pathetic monuments of vanished men."
Or more pathetic monuments still of hard and wasted work. On either side of the way, at too sadly frequent intervals, rained wells or desolate yawning cellar-holes, with tumbling chimneys standing like Druid rains, show that fair New England homes once there were found. Flaming orange tiger-lilies, most homely and cheerful bloom of country gardens, have spread from the deserted dooryards, across the untrodden foot-paths, in weedy thickets a-down the hill, and shed their rank odor unheeded on the air.
Some of the old provincial mile-stones, however, remain, and put us closely in touch with the past. In the southern part of New London County, and at Stratford, Conn., on the old post-road the King's Highway between Boston and Philadelphia, there are moss-grown stones that were set under the supervision of Benjamin Franklin when he was colonial Postmaster-General. After that highway was laid out, the placing and setting of the mile-stones were entrusted to Franklin, and he transacted the business, as he did everything else, in a thoroughly original way. He drove over the road in a comfortable chaise, followed by a gang of men and heavy teams loaded with the mile-stones. He attached to his chaise a machine which registered by the revolution of the chaise-wheels the number of miles travelled, and he had the mile-stones set by that record, and marked with the distance to the nearest large town. Thus the Stratford stone says: "20 Mls to N. H." New Haven.
By provincial enactment in Governor Hutchinson's time, mile-stones were set on all the post-roads throughout Massachusetts. Some of these stones are still standing. There is one in the middle of the city of Worcester, on Lincoln Street the "New Connecticut Path;" it is of red sandstone, and is marked, "42 Mls to Boston, 50 Mls to Springfield, 1771."
In Sutton, on the "Old Connecticut Path," stands still the king of all these 1771 mile-stones. It is of red sandstone, is five feet high, and nearly three feet wide. It is marked, "48 Mls to Boston 1771 B. W." The letters B. W. stand for Bartholomew Woodbury, a jovial and liberal old Sutton tavern-keeper who died in 1775. When the mile-stones were set out by the provincial government, the place for this Sutton stone fell a few rods from Landlord Woodbury's house; but he obtained permission and set up this handsome stone at his own expense, beside his great horse-block under his swinging sign at his open, welcoming door. He fancied, perhaps, that it would attract the attention, and thus cause the halting of travellers. Tavern-keeper and tavern are gone; no vestiges even of cobblestone chimneys or cellar walls remain. The old post-road is now but little travelled, but the great mile-stone and its neighbor, the worn stepping-block, still stand, lonely monuments of past days and past pleasures. On warm summer nights perhaps the silent old mile-stone awakes and sadly tells his companion of the gay coaches that rattled by, and the rollicking bucks and blades, the gallant soldiers that galloped past him in the days of his youth, a century ago. And the stepping-block may tell in turn of the good old days when her broad sunny face was pressed by the feet of fair colonial dames who, with faces hidden in riding-hoods and masks, stepped lightly from saddle or pillion to "board and bait" at Bartholomew Woodbury's cheerful inn.
In Roxbury, Mass., there still stands at the corner of Centre and Washington Streets the famous Roxbury Parting Stone. It is a great square stone, bearing on one face the words: "The Parting Stone 1744. P. Dudley;" on another face the words: "Dedham Rhode Island," and on a third "Cambridge Water town." It has had set on it recently an iron frame or fixture for a gas-lamp. This stone, with many others in Norfolk County, was placed by Paul Dudley at his own expense in the middle of the last century. It has seen the separation or "parting" of many a brave company that had ridden out to it from Boston. Many a distinguished traveller has passed it and glanced at its carved words. Lord Percy's soldiers took counsel of it one hot April morning to find the road to Lexington.
Governor Belcher set out a row of mile-stones from Boston Town House to his home in Milton. Some of them are still standing, the seventh and eighth in Milton, one marked "8 miles to B. Town House. The Lower Way, 1734." The ninth and twelfth stand as historical landmarks in Quincy, on the old Plymouth Road, and bear the dates 1720 and 1727.
In Wenham another mile-stone near the graveyard bears the date 1710, shows the distance to Ipswich and Boston, and gives these words of timely warning: "I know that Thou wilt Bring me to Death and to the house appointed for all Living."
A marked improvement in facilities for travel came in turnpike days. These well laid out and well kept roads fairly changed, the face of the country. They sometimes shortened by half the distance to be travelled between two towns. Stock companies were formed to build bridges and grade these turnpikes, and the stock formed a good investment and was also vastly used in speculation. The story of the turnpike is as interesting as that of the Indian path, but cannot be told at length here. They, too, have had their day; in some counties the turnpike is as deserted as the path and seems equally ancient.
New England roads and turnpikes have seen many a gay sight, for the custom of speeding the parting guest "agatewards" for some miles, with an accompanying escort on foot or on horseback, to some ford or natural turning -point or bourn, was a universal mark of interest and affection, and of courtesy as well. Judge Sewall records, on one occasion, with much indignation, that "not one soul rode with us to the ferry." Ere the days of turnpikes, the old Indian paths witnessed many a sad and pathetic parting in the wilderness, such as was recorded in simple language in Parson Thatcher's diary in 1680, when he left Barnstable to go to a new parish:
"A great company of horsemen 7 & 50 horse & 12 of them double, went with us to Sandwich & there got me to go to prayer with them, and I think none of them parted with me with dry eyes."
This is indeed a strong picture for the brush of a painter, the golden September light, nowhere more radiantly beautiful than on
"the narrowing Cape
That stretches its shrunk arm out to all the winds,
And the relentless smiting of the waves,"
and the sad-faced band in Puritan garb, armed and mounted, gathered around their departing leader in reverent prayer.
Perhaps the turnpike saw no more characteristic scene than the winter ride to market. Though summer and fall were the New England farmer's time of increase, winter was his time of trade and his time of recreation as well. When wintry blasts grew chill, and snow and ice covered deep the desolate fields and country roads, then he prepared with zest and with delight for his gelid time of outing, his Arctic red-letter day, his greatest social pleasure of the entire year. the friendly word was circulated by a kind of estafet from farm to farm, was carried by neighbor or passing traveller, or was discussed and planned and agreed upon in the noon-house, or at the tavern chimney-side on Sunday during the nooning, that on a certain date unless there set in the tantalizing and swamping January thaw, a thaw which might be pushing and unseasonable enough to rush in in December and quite as often hung off and dawdled into February that on the appointed date, at break of day, the annual ride to market would begin. Often fifty or sixty neighbors would respond to the call, would start together on the road. For farmers in western Vermont and Massachusetts the market town was Troy or other Hudson valley towns. In Maine, from Bath and Hallowell and neighboring towns, the winter procession rode to Portland. In central Massachusetts some drove to Northampton, Springfield, or Hartford; but the greatest number of farmers and the largest amount of farm produce went to the towns of the Massachusetts coast, to Salem, to Newburyport, and, above all, to Boston.
The two-horse pung or the single-horse pod, shod with steel shoes an inch thick, was closely packed with the accumulated farm wealth whole pigs, perhaps a deer or two, firkins of butter, casks of cheese, four cheeses in each cask, bags of beans, pease or corn, skins of mink, fox, and fisher-cat that the boys had trapped, birch brooms that the boys had made, yarn that their sisters had spun, and stockings and mittens that they had knitted in short, anything that a New England farm could produce that would sell to any profit in a New England town. So closely was the sleigh packed, in fact, that the driver could not be seated. The sturdy and hardy farmer stood on a little semicircular step in the rear of the sleigh, his body protected by the high sleigh back against. the sharp icy blasts. At times he ran alongside or behind his vehicle to keep his blood in brisk circulation.
Though every inch of the sleigh was packed to its fullest extent, there was always found room in some corner for plenty of food to last the thrifty traveller through his journey; often enough to liberally supply him even on his return trip cold roasted spare ribs of pork, doughnuts, loaves of "rye an' Injun" bread, and invariably a bountiful mass of frozen bean porridge. This latter was made and frozen in a tub, and when space was hard to find in the crowded vehicle, the solid mass was furnished with a loop of twine by which to hang it to the side of the pung. A small hatchet with which to chop off a chunk of porridge formed the accompaniment of this unalluring Arctic provender. Oats and hay to feed his horses did the farmer also carry.
There were plenty of taverns in which he could obtain food if he needed it, in which, indeed, he did obtain liquid sustenance to warm his bones and stir his tongue, and make palatable the half-thawed porridge which he ate in front of the cheerful tavern fire. But it was the invariable custom, no matter what the wealth of the farmer, to carry a supply of food for the journey. This kind of itinerant picnic was called "tuck-a-nuck" a word of Indian origin, or mitchin," while the box or hamper or bucket that held the provisions was called a "mitchin-box." I can fancy that no thrifty or loving housewife allowed the man of her household to go to market with too meanly filled a mitchin-box, but took an honest pride in sending him off with a full stock of rich doughnuts, well-baked bread, well-filled pies, and at least well-cooked porridge, which he could devour without shame before the eyes of his neighbors.
The traveller did not carry his meals from home because the tavern fare was expensive; at the inn where he paid ten cents a night for his lodging, he was uniformly charged but twelve and a half cents for a "cold bite," and but twenty-five cents for a regular meal; but it was not the fashion to purchase meals at the tavern; the host made his profits from the liquor he sold and from the sleeping-room he gave. Sometimes the latter was simple enough. A great fire was built in the fireplace of either front room the bar-room and parlor and round it, in a semicircle, feet to the fire and heads on their rolled-up buffalo robes, slept the tired travellers. A few sybaritic or rheumatic tillers of the soil paid for half a bed in one of the double-bedded rooms which all taverns then contained, and got a full bed's worth, in deep hollows and high billows of live-geese feathers, warm homespun blankets, and patchwork quilts.
It was certainly a gay winter's scene as sleigh after sleigh dashed into the tavern barn or shed, and the stiffened driver, after "putting up" his steed, walked quickly to the bar-room, where sat the host behind his cage-like counter, where ranged the inspiring barrels of old Medford or Jamaica rum and hard cider, and
"Where dozed a fire of beechen logs that bred
Strange fancies in its embers golden-red,
And nursed the loggerhead, whose hissing dip,
Timed by nice instinct, creamed the bowl of flip."
Many a rough joke was laughed at, many a story told ere the tired circle slept around the fire; but four o'clock saw them all bestirring, making a fresh start on their city-ward journey.
In town the traveller was busy enough; he not only had his farm products to sell, but since he sometimes got the enormous sum of fifty dollars for his sleigh load, and it was estimated that two dollars was a liberal allowance for a week's travelling expenses, he had much to spend and many purchases to make spies and raisins for the home table, fish-hooks and powder and shot, pewter plates, or a few pieces of English crockery, a calico gown or two, a shawl, or a serf, or a beaver hat; and thus brought to dreary New England farms their sole taste of town life in winter.
For many years travel, especially to New York and other seaport towns, was largely by water, on sloop or pink or snow; and many stories of the discomforts of such trips have come down to us.
The first passenger steamboat which ran between New York and Providence made its trial trip in 1822. The boats made the passage from town to town in twenty-three hours, which was monstrous fast time. On one of the first trips the boat lay by near Point Judith to repair a slight damage to machinery, and all the simple country-folk who came down to the shore expecting to find a wreck, were amazed to see the boat apparently burning up go quickly sliding away without sails over the water until out of sight. Many whispered that the devil had a hand in it, and perhaps was on board in person. The new means of conveyance proved at once to be the favored one for all genteel persons wishing to travel between Boston and New York. The forty-mile journey between Boston and Providence was made in fine stage-coaches, which were always crowded. Often eighteen or twenty full coach-loads were carried each way each day. The editor of the Providence Gazette wrote at that time: "We were rattled from Providence to Boston in four hours and fifty minutes if any one wants to go faster he may send to Kentucky and charter a streak of lightning!"
The fare on these coaches was three dollars for the trip between Providence and Boston. This exorbitant sum was a sore annoyance to all thrifty men, and indignantly did they rail and protest against it. At last a union was formed, and a line of rival coaches was established, on which the fare was to be two dollars and a half a trip. This caused great dismay to the regular coach company, who at once reduced their fare to two dollars. The rival line, not to be outdone, announced their reduction to a dollar and a half. The regulars then widely advertised that their fare would thenceforth be only one dollar. The rivals then sold seats for the trip for fifty cents apiece; and in despair, after jealously watching for weeks the crowded coaches of the new line, the conquered old line mournfully announced that they would make trips every day with their vehicle filled with the first applicants who chanced to be on time at the starting-place, and that these lucky dogs would be carried for nothing.
The new stage-coaches were now in their turn deserted, and the proprietors pondered for a week trying to invent some way to still further cut down the entirely vanished rates. They at last placarded the taverns with announcements that they would not only carry their patrons free of expense, but would give each traveller on their coaches a good dinner at the end of his journey. The old coach-line was rich and at once counter-advertised a free dinner and a good bottle of wine too, to its patrons and there, for a time, the fierce controversy came to a standstill, both lines having crowded trips each day.
Mr. Shaffer, who was a fashionable teacher of dancing and deportment in Boston, and a well-known "man about town," a jolly good fellow, got upon the Providence coach one Monday morning in Boston, had a gay ride to Providence and a good dinner and bottle of wine at the end of the journey, all at the expense of the coach company. On Tuesday he rode more gayly still back to Boston, had his dinner and his wine, and was up on Wednesday morning to mount the Providence coach for the third ride and dinner and bottle. He returned to Boston on Thursday in the same manner. On Friday the fame of his cheap fun was thoroughly noised all over Boston, and he collected a crowd of gay young sparks who much enjoyed their frolicking ride and the fine Providence dinners and wine. All returned in high spirits with Shaffer to Boston on Saturday to meet the sad, sad news that the rival coach lines had made a compromise and had both signed a contract to carry pamengers thereafter for two dollars a trip.
Upon Tremont Street, near Winter Street, in Boston, there stood at that time in a garden a fine old house which was kept as a restaurant, and was a pleasant summer lounging-place for all gay cits. One day a very portly, aldermanic man presented himself at the entrance of the restaurant and asked the price of a dinner. Shaffer, who was present, immediately assumed all the obsequious airs of a waiter, and calling for a tape-measure, proceeded to measure the distance around the protuberant waist of the astonished and insulted inquirer, who could hardly believe his sense of hearing when the impudent Shaffer very politely answered, "Price of dinner, sir! about four dollars, sir! for that size, sir!" Such were the practical jokes of stage and tavern life in olden days.