Men & Manners in America
MEN AND MANNERS
BY THE AUTHOR OF CYRIL THORNTON, ETC.
IN TWO VOLUMES,
WILLIAM BLACKWOOD, EDINBURGH; AND
T. CADELL, STRAND, LONDON.
I believe this pleasure, unsupported by reasons of greater cogency, made me imagine a fortnight's breathing-time to be necessary, between the journey just accomplished, and that which I yet meditated to Niagara and Quebec. Nothing of any consequence,
however, occurred during this interval; and as I always found the flight of time to be unusually rapid at New York, the period fixed for departure soon came.
On the 30th of May I ran up the Hudson to West Point, about fifty miles from New York. The scenery, now clad in all the verdure of summer, certainly transcended every thing I had ever seen on a scale so extensive. What struck me as chiefly admirable, was the fine proportion of the different features of the landscape. Taken separately, they were not much. Every one has seen finer rocks and loftier mountains, and greater magnificence of forest scenery, but the charm lay in the combination, in that exquisite harmony of detail which produces -- if I may so write -- a synthetic beauty of the highest order.
But the joint force, and full result of all."
The Hudson, in truth, is one of nature's felicities. Every thing is in its proper place, and of the dimensions most proper to contribute to the general effect. Add elevation to the mountains, and the consequence
of the river would be diminished. Increase the expanse of the river, and you impair the grandeur of the mountains. As it is, there is perfect subordination of parts, and the result is something on which the eye loves to gaze, and the heart to meditate, which tinges our dreams with beauty, and often in distant lands will recur, unbidden, to the imagination.
At West Point is a national establishment for the education of young men destined for the army. I had letters to Colonel Thayer, the commandant, a clever and intelligent officer, who has made it his pleasure, as well as his business, to acquire an intimate knowledge of tactic in all its branches. By him, I was conducted over the establishment, and in the system of discipline and education found much to approve. The cadets wear uniform, and are habitually inured to the disagreeables -- so I remember I used to think them -- of garrison duty. In the evening the young gentlemen displayed their proficiency in practical gunnery, and with some light pieces made several good shots at a target across the river. The distance, I believe, was about eight hundred yards. The guns, however, were not served in
a military manner, nor with that speed and regularity which are essential to the practical efficiency of the arm.
I may also observe, that the carriage of the cadets was less soldierlike than might be wished. In most of them, I remarked a certain slouch about the shoulders, which demanded the judicious application of back boards and dumb bells. But, in truth, the remark is applicable to the whole population. Colonel Thayer himself is almost the only man whom I chanced to encounter in my travels, who appeared to me to possess any thing of the true military bearing. In him it was perfect. I believe he might brave the criticism of a Sergeant-Major of the Guards.
Having passed a pleasant day at West Point, I proceeded to Dr. Hosack's, about thirty miles distant. I had before visited Hyde Park in the depth of winter, I now beheld its fine scenery adorned by the richest luxuriance of verdure. Poet or painter could desire nothing more beautiful. There are several villas in the neighbourhood tenanted by very agreeable families, and had it been necessary to eat lotus
in the United States, I should certainly have selected Hyde Park as the scene of my repast. But I had determined on returning to England in the course of the summer, and was therefore anxious to proceed on my journey. On the third day, I bade farewell to my kind friends -- for so I trust they will permit me to call them -- and again embarked on the Hudson.
The scenery above Hyde Park assumes a new character. The river leads through a gently undulating country, and its banks present a succession of agreeable villas. I passed the Catskill mountains with regret. Their aspect is fine and commanding, and I was assured the views from the summit are very splendid. I was yet undecided whether I should. visit them, when a summons to dinner occasioned an adjournment of the debate. When I returned to the deck, we had passed the Catskill landing-place, and I continued my route to Albany.
Albany is the capital of the State of New York. It is finely situated on the brow of a hill which rises from the margin of the river. On the summit stands the State-house, grandiloquently called the
Capitol, a building of some extent but no beauty. None of the public buildings present any thing remarkable, but the town has an antique appearance, rare in this country, and contains some of the primitive and picturesque buildings erected by the Dutch settlers The streets struck me as being particularly clean, and the general aspect of the place is pleasing.
I had heard much of a Shaker village in the neighbourhood and the day following being Sunday, I drove to it with the view of seeing their form of worship. The name of this peaceful settlement is Niskayuma, and its inhabitants possess a valuable estate of about two thousand acres, which their labour has brought into high cultivation. These simple enthusiasts hold every thing in common and their tenets, so far as I could understand them, are curious enough.
Anne Lee, a woman who came to America many years ago, and brought with her the gift of tongues and of prophecy, is the object of peculiar veneration. With such evidences of inspiration, she of course became the founder of a sect. Though herself
the wife of an honest blacksmith, Mrs. Lee inculcated the indispensable necessity of absolute and entire celibacy, which, on spiritual grounds, she maintained to be essential to salvation. Sensual enjoyment of every kind was expressly forbidden, and though such tenets were little calculated to allure the fair or the young, Mother Anne contrived to gather about her a society of disappointed maidens and withered bachelors, -- of all, in short, who having survived the age of passion, were content to make a merit of resigning pleasures in which they could no longer participate. The number of her followers increased by the accession of a few less antiquated enthusiasts, and an occasional accouchement among the fair sisterhood affords matter of jest to the profane. Mother Anne has long gone the way of all flesh, but her memory is yet "green in the souls" of her followers, who speak of her as a pure incarnation of the Divine Spirit.
When I arrived, public worship had already commenced, and the congregation were engaged in singing. The music was monotonous, and the words nonsense, or something nearly approaching it. The
men were drawn up on one side of the chapel and the women on the other. The latter were the veriest scarecrows I had ever seen in the female form. They were old and cadaverous, with the exception of one bright-eyed girl, whose expression bespoke a temperament little fitted for the ascetic abstinence of her sect. The men were poor-looking creatures enough, but their appearance, on the whole, was a little better than that of the women.
Both, however, were critically clean. The men were without coats, but rejoiced in snuff-coloured waistcoats and unimaginables, and white neckcloths. The charms of the women were displayed in grey gowns, and white muslin handkerchiefs, and caps nicely plaited.
The singing concluded, we had something like a sermon. One of the brethren advanced to the centre of the room or chapel, and commenced in a calm deliberate tone, as follows:--
"We can do nothing of ourselves. Every thing good in us is the gift of God. Yet man is very fond of relying on himself and his own efforts, and almost all those who have been distinguished by spiritual
gifts, through all the ages of the world, have had this grand defect in their character. But the truth is, my brethren, we are all helpless without the gift of grace, and if we, who have separated ourselves from the world, retiring from its temptations, and renouncing its pomps and vices, find ground for spiritual pride in this devotion of ourselves to the service of God, we are guilty of a very great sin, and a sin more unpardonable in us than others, because our light is greater. I would impress this on you, therefore, not to be vainglorious on account of the favour you have found in the sight of God, but to go on steadily, humbly, gratefully, and submissively, looking neither to the right hand nor the left, remembering always that your kingdom is not of this world, but of another and a better. Thank God for all his mercies, my brethren, but be not therefore puffed up."
After this we had another song, quite as nonsensical as the former, which was followed by a second discourse. The preacher on this occasion was a fat jolly-looking man, whose comfortable plight formed something of a contrast with the mummy-like aspect of his brethren. The only remarkable portion of
the discourse was the peroration, in which he addressed himself particularly to those, who, like myself had visited the meeting from motives of mere curiosity.
"Strangers, I would address myself to you. What motives brought you to this place of worship, I know not. Some may have come to join in our devotions, but the greater part of you, I fear, have come only to see the peculiarities of our worship. To this we do not object. We court no concealment in any thing we do, but we demand of you in return, that you offer no indecent interruption to our religious solemnities. I beseech you to remember that we are Christians like yourselves -- that we are engaged in offering adoration to the great God who fashioned us all as we are. If you do not respect us, respect yourselves; and however ridiculous our forms may appear to you, we entreat that you will at least not interrupt our devotional exercises by any demonstration of contempt."
After such an appeal it became impossible for the most graceless spectator to offer any thing like insult to these simple fanatics. During the dance which
followed, however, I confess I had a good deal of difficulty in maintaining due composure. On a given signal the whole congregation began singing and dancing with all their vigour. I observed that the more youthful and active introduced a few supererogatory gyrations, which were not attempted by the senior members; and one boy in particular signalized himself by a series of spirited saltations, not very dissimilar to the Highland fling. My attention, too, was attracted by the two preachers, who, though somewhat fallen into "the sere, the yellow leaf," kept capering about with the lightness and grace of cart-horses, till the very end of the performance.
The dance lasted for about a quarter of an hour, and I could not help sympathizing with the suffering performers. The weather was intensely hot, and the whole corps de ballet were thrown by their movements into a state of the most profuse perspiration. This circumstance produced a change in the condition of the atmosphere by no means pleasant, and, without waiting the conclusion of the service, I took my departure.
From the Shaker settlement I drove to the Cohoes
Falls, about fire miles distant. The Mohawk, a river about as large as the Severn, comes foaming down, throws itself over a precipice of about seventy feet with great majesty, and then flows calmly onward to its confluence with the Hudson. The sight was very noble, and after enjoying if about half an hour, I set out on my return to Albany.
The junction of the Champlain and Erie canals, near Troy, is considered a sight to which the admiration of travellers is justly due. Why, I know not. To my ignorant vision there seemed nothing remarkable. The canals are united, and there is an end of it. Of the amount of difficulties overcome I do not pretend to be qualified to judge.
A little above Troy I observed a crowd collected on the river, and found they were attracted by the ceremony of baptism, which two Baptist clergymen were performing on sundry proselytes. The first subject of immersion was an old lady, whose cold and shivering appearance excite passion. She was led in by one of the clergymen till the water reached her middle, when they both --somewhat rudely, I thought -- seized the dowager
by the shoulders, and throwing her back with a sudden jerk, soused her over head and ears in the water before she seemed aware of their intentions. Luckily, the poor woman escaped absolute suffocation, and with an aspect something like that of a drowned rat, was supported to the shore. Her sufferings, however, did not terminate here. The word snuff was written on the nose of one of the clergymen so legibly, that he who ran might read. I observed that immediately after employing his pocket-handkerchief in its most appropriate function, he applied it to the eyes of the patient matron! This was even worse than the ducking.
At Albany a traveller has the choice of proceeding by stage-coach or canal. I preferred the former, and accordingly secured places for Utica. The coach was full, and the heat so excessive, that till we reached Schenectady, I do not know that I ever experienced greater suffering. There, however, our fellow-travellers embarked on the canal, and the rest of the journey was performed in comparative comfort. The road -- one of the roughest I ever travelled -- winds along the banks of the Mohawk, through
a country which presents many noble features. In point of cultivation, however, it appeared very inferior to what might be expected in so populous a district. The greater part of the journey was performed by night, yet not in darkness, for we had the light of a brilliant moon, which softened without obscuring the landscape.
About eleven o'clock on the following morning, we reached Utica, a handsome and flourishing town, which exhibits every external mark of prosperity. After dinner I engaged what is called an "extra exclusive" to convey me to Trenton Falls, a distance of fifteen miles. We did not reach Trenton till after nightfall, and I was obliged to delay the gratification of my curiosity till the following morning. The inn, however, was very comfortable, and after the jolting of the previous night, the attractions of clean sheets and a well-stuffed mattress were by no means inconsiderable. After breakfast on the following morning, I sallied forth to visit the falls. They are formed by the West Canada creek in its passage through a glen or ravine about two miles in length, in the course of which it descends about three
hundred feet. As may be supposed in such circumstances, the stream rushes onward with great violence. There are several falls, none of which are without beauty, and the whole scenery struck me as bearing strong resemblance to that of Roslin glen, to which, except in romantic associations, it is in nothing inferior.
The fall which pleased me most is one in which the torrent takes a double leap, the last of which is about forty feet. The surrounding rocks are grand and precipitous, and their crevices afford nourishment to trees which are writhed into a thousand fantastic forms. There is one sad drawback, however. At precisely the most beautiful point of the scene there has been erected -- what, good reader? -- but you will never guess -- a dram shop!
How utterly so wild and beautiful a scene is degraded by the presence of a drinking shop may readily be conceived; and the outrage on taste; and even decency, is the more gratuitous since the spot on which the building is erected is not above a mile from the hotel.
On such occasions one is betrayed unawares into
writing strongly. But cui bono> A writer may appeal to a moral sense, but he cannot create one; and assuredly the man whose imagination turns to the brandy bottle, even when gazing on the noble scenery of Trenton, will think of it in the death-agony.
Being still sore from the jolting of the stage-coach, I determined to proceed by the canal, and at two o'clock on the following day went on board the passage-boat. There were about forty passengers; the heat of the cabin was intolerable. Driven from within, I took a seat on deck, but without diminution of suffering. I found myself exposed to the full fervour of the sun, and the boards were literally burning to the feet. Add to this the nuisance of the numerous bridges, the arches of which are barely high enough to admit the passage of the boat, and leave to the passengers only the option of descending every time they approach one, or of being swept off by a more summary process.
The country through which we passed consisted chiefly of marshy forest, such as I had traversed for many a weary league in the south. Every here and there a town had sprung up in the wilderness, but
with nothing to interest the spectator, who sees everywhere but one process and one result. He looks for the picturesque, and finds the profitable, and wishes from the bottom of his heart they had been found compatible.
The Americans are dilettanti in nomenclature. In following the course of the Erie Canal, a traveller will pass through Troy, Amsterdam, Frankfort, Manlius, Syracuse, Canton, Jordan, Port Byron, Montezuma, Rome, Smith's, Dumkin's, Carthage, Salina, Rochester, Ogden, Geddes, and Palmyra. The Eternal City here dwindles into "a half-shire town, which contains a court-house and gaol, and is pleasantly situated on the old canal!" So says the guide-book. Amsterdam is more fortunate, for it boasts "a post-office, a church, and about fifty houses or stores." Palmyra is charmingly located on Mud Creek. Carthage derived its consequence from a bridge which "fell under the pressure of its weight," The maxim, delenda est Carthago, therefore, is likely to be realized in the new world as well as in the old.
Such absurdities are fair game, for they have their
origin in vanity. To adorn their cities by monuments of art is an expensive indulgence, from which Americans are content to abstain. But pretension of name costs nothing, and is found everywhere.
During the day the number of passengers increased to about sixty, including twenty ladies; and where this large party were to be stowed for the night, it was not easy to anticipate. In the cabin there was no appearance of sleeping berths by day, but at night ranges of shelves were put up, and the chairs, benches, and tables, were all converted into beds, The portion of the cabin destined for the use of the ladies was obscured from observation by a curtain. In order to prevent partiality, there was a sort of lottery, in which each person drew forth a number which determined his position for the night. Fortune fixed me on the table, and there I lay with the knee of one man thrust directly into my stomach, and with my feet resting upon the bead of another. The sheets were offensively dirty, and the blankets not much better.
The Americans dread the circulation of pure air; and those in the vicinity of a window insisted on its
being closed. Under these circumstances, the atmosphere became not only hot, but poisonous, and the act of inhalation was performed with disgust. Then there were legions of mosquitoes, whose carnival, from the use they made of it, seemed to have been preceded by a lent; and to crown all, at least a dozen noses were snoring bass to an unmelodious treble which proceeded from the ladies' division of the cabin.
One night of this kind was enough; and so, at Montezuma, being anxious to see something of the smaller lakes, of whose beauty I had heard a great deal, I removed into another packet-boat, and diverging into a branch canal which communicates with the Seneca lake, at night found myself in Geneva. The town makes a handsome display on an eminence near the northern extremity of the lake. It contains some three or four thousand inhabitants, several churches, and a school dignified by the name of a college. Near to the lake are a few pretty villas, and in the town a considerable number of respectable houses, built of brick or stone. Geneva is the depot of the produce of the neighbouring country. It comes by
the lake, and is then embarked on the canal for New York.
Seneca is a fine sheet of water undoubtedly, but its scenery -- so far as I saw it -- presents nothing of remarkable beauty. It is about forty miles long, with a mean breadth of three or four. It is navigated by a steam-boat, in which, had the weather been cooler, I should probably have made a trip. As it was, the temptations of an arm-chair and a cool veranda were irresistible.
The banks of the Seneca, like those of the Gareloch, have been the chosen seat of miracles. Some years ago, a woman called Jemima Wilson [sic - Wilkinson?], announced herself as the Saviour of the world, and attracted a few followers somewhat more mad than herself. While her miraculous endowments were displayed only in the jabbering of unknown tongues, and unintelligible predictions, she stood on safe ground, but unluckily her ambition pointed to the honour of more palpable miracles. "Near Rapelyeas ferry," says the Northern Tourist, "the frame is still standing which Jemima constructed to try the faith of her followers. Having approached within a few
hundred yards of the shore, she alighted from an elegant carriage, and the road being strewed by her followers with white handkerchiefs, she walked to the platform, and having announced her intention of walking across the lake on the water, she stepped ankle-deep into the clear element, when suddenly pausing, she addressed the multitude, enquiring whether they had faith that she could pass over, for if otherwise, she could not; and on receiving an affirmative answer, returned to her carriage, declaring, that as they believed in her power, it unnecessary to display it." Miss Campbell, I believe, with similar pretensions, has been equally prudent in putting them to the proof.
On the night following, I left Geneva, by the Rochester stage. By day-dawn, we reached Canandaigua, which stands at the northern extremity of a beautiful lake, of which I caught a few glimpses in the moonshine, Canandaigua is a pretty village, and certainly the situation has a good deal of charm. More attention seems to have been paid here than elsewhere, to external decoration, The better houses are surrounded by ornamental trees, and the number
of these is so considerable as to give a character to the place. In general, however, I have not been struck with, what in this country are called, " beautiful villages." These consist almost uniformly of rows of white framework houses, with green blinds and shutters; but they are flimsy in point of material, and the colours are too glaring to harmonize with the surrounding scenery.
We reached Rochester under the influence of a burning sun. The hotel was excellent, and the luxury of cold baths, and the civility of the landlord, induced me to delay progress till the following day. In the cool of the evening, I strolled out to see the falls of the Genesee. The height of the uppermost is considerable, being about ninety feet, and the water rushes over it gracefully enough, but the vicinity of sundry saw and corn mills has destroyed the romantic interest which invested it in the days when "the cataract blew his trumpet from the steep," amid the stillness of the surrounding forest.
The old proverb de gustibus, &c. receives illustration in every country. An eccentric man, called Sam Patch, having an aversion to honest industry,
made it his profession to jump over all the waterfalls in the country. Niagara was too much for him, but he sprang from a lofty rock, some distance below the Horse-shoe fall, with impunity. His last jump was at the fall I have just described of the Genesee, in the autumn of 1829. From a scaffold elevated twenty-five feet above the table rock, making a descent altogether of a hundred and twenty-five feet, he fearlessly plunged into the boiling cauldron beneath. From the moment of his immersion, he was seen no more. His body was not discovered for many months, and was at length found at the mouth of the river, six miles below.
Rochester is a place worth seeing. Twenty years ago there was not a house in the neighbourhood, and now there is a town, containing thirteen thousand good Americans and true, with churches, banks, theatres, and all other oppidan appurtenances to match. Such growth is more like forcing in a hot-bed, than the natural progress of human vegetation. For a great deal of its prosperity, Rochester is indebted to the Erie canal, which brought its advantageous proximity to Lake Ontario into full play.
The canal runs through the centre of the town, and crosses the Genesee by an aqueduct which, according to the Northern Tourist, "cost rising of 80,000; dollars," whatever sum that may amount to. There are several streets in Rochester which might be backed at reasonable odds against any in Hull or Newcastle, to say nothing of Cork, Falmouth, or Berwick-upon-Tweed. The appearance of the shops indicates the prevalence of respectable opulence. Those of the jewellers display a stock of Paris trinkets and silver snuff-boxes. There are silks and Leghorn bonnets for the seduction of the ladies, and the windows of the tailors are adorned by coloured prints of gentlemen in tight fitting, swallow tails, with the epigraph "New York fashions for May."
After passing a comfortable day and night in the Eagle tavern, which I strongly recommend to all future travellers, I took my departure from Rochester in the Lockport stage. We travelled by the "ridge road," which is composed of hard sand, and extends along what has evidently in former times been the embankment of Ontario. This ridge road, therefore, is entirely of nature's making, and I
shall die in the belief that it is the very best in the United States. The coach rolled on as smoothly as it could have done between London and St. Albans, and I began to think of reading, to have attempted which, in other portions of my peregrination, would have been strongly indicative of insanity.
I am aware of little which merits record in the journey to Lockport, except the unwonted luxury in which it was performed. Towards evening, we passed a camp meeting, to which several of the passengers directed their steps, and which, under other circumstances, I should have been glad to visit. We passed also several parties of what were called Mormonites, going to join a settlement established by their founder, in Ohio. Relative to this sect, of which I had never before heard, I gleaned the following particulars from one of the passengers. A bankrupt store-keeper, whose name I think was Smith, had an extraordinary dream. It directed him to go alone to a particular spot, distinctly indicated, where he was to dig to a certain depth. This dream was of course treated as a mere delusion, and, as is usual in such cases, was thrice repeated,
with denunciation of heavy punishment in case of disobedience.
In this emergency, Smith judged it more prudent to shoulder his spade, than by further obstinacy to excite the vengeance of some unearthly intelligence. Having dug to the requisite depth in the place commanded, he found a book with golden clasps and cover, and a pair of elegantly mounted spectacles, somewhat old-fashioned to be sure, but astonishing magnifiers, and possessing qualities which it might puzzle Sir David Brewster to explain on optical principles.
Smith had some difficulty in undoing the clasps of this precious volume, but on opening it, though his eyes were good, it appeared to contain nothing but blank paper. It then occurred to him to fit on his spectacles, when, lo! the whole volume was filled with certain figures and pot-hooks to him unintelligible. Delighted with his good fortune, Smith trudged home with the volume in his pocket and the spectacles on his nose, happy as bibliomaniac who has been lucky enough to purchase some rare Editio Princeps " dog cheap" from the ignorant proprietor
of an obscure bookstall. On reaching his own house, his first; care was to secure his miraculous treasure from profane observation; his second, to copy out a page or two of the characters, and look about for an interpreter. His search was long fruitless, but at length he hit on precisely the two individuals who were qualified conjointly for the office. One of these gentlemen possessed the faculty of reading the hieroglyphics, and the other of interpreting them. It then appeared that the volume in question was entitled the book of Mormon, a converted Rabbi, who flourished in the days of our Saviour, or shortly after, and who, by the aid of divine inspiration, wrote the treatise in question in elucidation of all the dark points of religion which, to the present day, continue to puzzle theologians.
Smith's worldly prospects now brightened. With this invaluable treatise in his strong box, he commenced business afresh, under the firm of Mormon, Smith, and Co., and appears to possess an unlimited credit on the credulity of his followers. He has set up an establishment something similar to that of Mr.
Owen, and already boasts a considerable number of opulent believers,
We slept at Lockport, in a dirty and uncomfortable tavern. In the morning we were again in motion. At Lewiston, a village on the frontier, I quitted the stage, and despatched a messenger across the river to secure an extra exclusive for Niagara. The delay occasioned by breakfast to an impatient traveller is generally not great, and entering the ferry-boat, I soon found myself once more on British ground. At Queenston, judging from their accent, the majority of the inhabitants are Scotch; and certainly to my ear the Doric of my country never sounded so musical before. About a mile from the landing place, are the heights of Queenston, Which, during the late war, were gallantly and successfully defended by a small body of British, under Sir Isaac Brock, against an American force nearly ten times their number. The latter, however, consisted chiefly of militia; and had the achievement not unfortunately been rendered memorable by the death of the British leader, it would probably, like most other events
of the war, have been forgotten. Its memory, however, has been perpetuated by the erection of a trophy column on the summit of the height. It is composed of freestone, and about a hundred-and-twenty feet high. I am not sure that in point of architecture it is quite faultless. The shaft struck me as wanting height in proportion to its diameter, and the general outline somewhat resembles that of an apothecary's phial. Were it surmounted by a statue, the effect would undoubtedly be improved.
The Niagara at Queenston is about a quarter of a mile broad; the current is rapid, and the depth very great, -- not less, I believe, than two hundred feet. The colour of the water is a nondescript and very beautiful shade between azure and green. The banks for several miles are high and precipitous, and covered with the primeval forest.
Having reached Queenston, horses were immediately harnessed to a light open carriage, and we rattled off. The distance is about seven miles, and the road very tolerable. As we advanced, both eye and ear were awake to detect indication of our increasing proximity to the Falls. At length a cloud...
On pages 310-312 of Vol. 2 of his 1833 book, English writer Thomas Hamilton speaks of encountering "several parties of what were called Mormonites" on the road between Rochester and Lockport during June 1831. These parties of migrating Latter Day Saints apparently passed through Lockport, Niagara Co., New York in mid-June, on their way to Buffalo and, eventually, the Mormon headquarters at Kirtland, Ohio.
A careful study of Hamilton's trip to the Niagara region shows that he passed the "several parties of what were called Mormonites" on the road just east of Lockport late on June 13, 1831. These were not the members of the Colesville and Fayette LDS branches, for those troops of migrants had passed through the same area several days earlier, also on their way to Kirtland. The Saints whom Hamilton encountered were likely stragglers from the Manchester-Palmyra area and perhaps included in their number prominent persons such as Martin Harris, William W. Phelps, and Solomon Chamberlain.
The Lockport Balance recorded the passage of these several companies of Mormons through Niagara County during the Spring of 1831 -- unfortunately very few issues of that newspaper have survived the ravages of time and the contant of the articles printed within their pages has largely been lost. Mordecai M. Noah's Morning Courier And New-York Enquirer quoted an article from a May [24th?] issue of the Balance on June 13, 1831, stating: "The Lockport Balance says, that the Mormonites at present exceed one thousand. The land selected by their Prophet is in and around the town of Kirtland, Geauga county, Ohio. Every day adds to their numbers."
In his May 31st issue, Orsamus Turner, editor of the Balance printed a significant article which he entitled "The March of Mormonism." In that article Turner reported the recent passage of the Latter Day Saints through Niagara County, by boat on the Erie Canal: "It is but a few days since, that an entire boat load of them passed this village, principally from the counties of Ontario and Wayne..."
Turner's May 31st article was quickly reprinted in several newspapers, some of which added to it a short account from the May 27th issue of the Palmyra Wayne Sentinel, entitled "Mormon Emigration." The Sentinel article stated that "Several families, numbering about fifty souls, took up their line of march from this town last week for the "promised land," among whom is Martin Harris..."
Of particular importance is the claim made by Turner in his "The March of Mormonism" that Oliver Cowdery was "an itinerant pamphlet pedlar, and occasionally a journeyman printer." Turner undoubtedly knew fellow newspaperman turned Mormon, William W. Phelps. If Phelps passed through Lockport with the band of Mormons encountered there by Thomas Hamilton on June 13th, it is likely that Turner made some reference to this event in the pages of the Lockport Balance. Long lost issues of the Balance for June 7, 14, 21, and 28, 1831 perhaps hold answers to questions regarding this straggling band of Mormon travelers.
Phelps had arrived in Kirtland at least a few days prior to his June 19, 1831 departure for western Missouri in company with Joseph Smith andSidney Rigdon. An article in the Painesville Telegraph for June 14, 1831, entitled "Mormonism on the Wing," seems to indicate that Martin Harris had arrived in Geauga Co., Ohio by that date, or at least that he was not far away.
For further information on the Mormons "leaving with Martin Harris" who "may have been close behind both the Colesville and Fayette Saints," see Larry C. Porter's "'Ye Shall Go to the Ohio': Exodus of the New York Saints to Ohio,1831" in Milton V. Backman, Jr. (ed) Regional Studies in Latter-day Saint Church History, Ohio (1990).
The only other Hamilton remark of any special importance is his saying (on page 310) that Smith's "extraordinary dream" (of 1823?) instructing him on where to find the "precious volume" was "thrice repeated." This appears to be a very early rendition of the Moroni visitation, as later published in the Times And Seasons serialization of the "History of Joseph Smith."