Thursday, December 2, 2010

FROM DR. SAUGRAIN'S NOTE-BOOKS, 1788 by Eugene F. Bliss

I. Stay Opposite Louisville.

II. Observations upon Post Vincennes.

III. Diary of Journal from Louisville to Philadelphia.

At the meeting of this Society, held in Boston, April 1897, was read an article entitled: "Dr. Saugrain's Relation of his Voyage down the Ohio River from Pittsburgh to the Falls in 1788." I prefaced this "Relation" by a brief sketch of the Doctor's life. I give to-day what we have left of Dr. Saugrain's journals or note-books. These contain an account of his stay opposite Louisville, his observations upon Post Vincennes in the present Indiana and his account of his return to Philadelphia through Kentucky to Maysville, up the Ohio to Pittsburgh and thence through Pennsylvania. The few notes I have appended are taken from Collins' History of Kentucky, unless some other authority is given.

Since the publication of my communication of 1897 two pamphlets have been published in relation to Dr. Saugrain. The first by Dr. N. P. Dandridge of Cincinnati, being the • address he delivered as President at the meeting of the American Surgical Association at St. Louis, June 14, 1904; the other by William Vincent Byars, entitled: "The First Scientist of the Mississippi Valley," St. Louis, without date. Both these pamphlets have a likeness of Dr. Saugrain "from an old portrait, painted from life."

In preparing this article I have been indebted to The Historical & Philosophical Society of Ohio.


I arrived in Louisville March 29th, 1788. I crossed the Ohio Sunday morning, the 30th of the same month. I wrote to Monsieu La Size and to d'Orcantille etc. April 13th. I thought when I arrived at the fort,1 where I still am, April 20th,—considering the politeness shown me,— that I should be badly off, since we easily tire of giving hospitality and of showing attention to a man of whom we have nothing to expect and who has no money, but I was mistaken, for the longer I am here the more attention I am shown. The surgeon and the officers are the best men in the world and take the greatest care of me. My feet are doing well and in ten or twelve days I think I shall be able to walk. It has needed, however, a long time to bring this about. I shall not lose the big toe of the left foot and the first joint of the second toe of the same foot. My neck is quite cured and my hand could not be better. I have got off with the loss of the perfect use of the index finger of the left hand.
We set out from Pittsburgh March 18th. The Indians attacked us on the 23d and I was three days in the woods. A Kentucky boat brought us in two days to the Falls.
Louisville is a very unhealthy place and I have no trouble in believing it, considering the negligence of its inhabitants, who let the water stagnate in the lower parts, although it would be little trouble to draw it off. There is nothing remarkable except an old fort,2 of which I speak simply to tell of the city, for it would not be worth while to speak Fort Steuben. •Fort Nelson.

of some heaps of dirt made for earthworks which would overawe only savages. I say nothing of the environs; I have not yet seen them. As for the other side of the Ohio, they have built the fort where I am. At first view it is a charming place and superb trees produce this effect. One who has not been over the environs of the fort except for two miles would judge the place healthy, but a little farther off are swamps which make the place unhealthy, which is asserted by four or five persons, for I have not myself seen them. We are going to-morrow or the day after to see a creek, called in English Silver Creek. There are several mines, they say, and I have here the reputation of a great mineralogist and as I found at Fort Pitt a little silver in a lead mine, some of which they gave me to assay, they believe in this part of America that I am going to find all the gold of Peru. So they bring specimens in abundance and the greater part are only iron or copper pyrites. I wish, my learned friend, you were here, for there is a lead mine that yields abundantly, but with a considerable quantity of bismuth, as I judge. The mine is not yet regularly worked. I shall bring you specimens from it and we will see together, we two men, if it is good, better than one. This will be perhaps a good thing. It is found fifteen miles from the Falls. I make myself useful to all. I have made them a furnace and we make fixed alkalies for all the doctors roundabout. It is good to know something, one makes himself useful, and I amuse them also with some experiments in electricity.

The number of boats that come down is considerable; here comes the seventeenth and a great number of them will continue to come. The number of them, however, is not so great as at Limestone,8 where there comes and stops a prodigious number. I understand now that it is not well to have a salt spring too near your house, for the cattle amuse themselves by licking the ground, eat little and consequently become lean. Salt is not dear here;

•Now Maysville, Ky., on the Ohio River sixty miles above Cincinnati, named after James May. Its first name was derived from ita situation at the mouth of Limestone Creek.

it is got from the springs. There is no doubt in my mind that all this country has been covered by the waters of the sea, or has been a lake. I shall bring you some stones, which, I think, will convince you when you have seen the incrustations of sea shells which occur. A few days ago some surveyors, working along the Little Miami, found hung up in a tree a blanket in which there was much linen, cloth etc. It is presumed that this was from a boat which met the same fate as our own. The savages could not carry off everything. Although I have very little money, I have yet been obliged to have two shirts made. They sold me the linen at a dollar a yard, or aune of the country. It is terribly coarse, but it is white. It is true there is some which is much less coarse, finer and cheaper etc., but it is the cloth of the country,—Salt is worth at the Falls two dollars the bushel. (It is, you see, dearer than I thought.) It is made, as you know, at the salt springs which are found about here in abundance. If one wishes to go for it himself and does not wish to take the trouble to boil the water, it comes at a dollar a bushel. It is generally very white. I shall bring specimens of different salt springs in case they wish an analysis of them. There is here at the Falls and in the neighborhood quite a large quantity of flintstones, of which the savages formerly made use to point their arrows and of which now are made gun-flints, which are not too good. Nearly all Kentucky (Kientuke) is filled with a cane which gives very good fodder for cattle of every sort. This kind of fodder has one great inconvenience when once the cattle have eaten off the leaves they do not put out again. (It will be Kentucky's fate some day to find herself stripped of pasturage.) There are turtles here and in great plenty. The soldiers often go for them and we eat them. A sort of soup is made of them which is quite good. Geese and turkeys are very common. Ducks, plovers, quails etc. The noise of the drum and fifes drives away the deer. I believe you have to go two and three miles to kill any of them.

The 25th. I have been to visit the famous creek of Silver Creek, but unfortunately the waters are so high that we could not even see the creek. The waters have overflowed but I was rewarded for my trouble—for my feet still pain me—by seeing a very abundant stream of mineral water. This water is impregnated with a considerable quantity of iron and especially at this moment when we have had much rain here. I brought back some of the water to the fort and, having put into it an infusion of oak-bark, it gave me the ink with which I am writing to you,—after, however, bringing it over the fire and boiling it for two hours, it is as blue as at this moment, but I think it will fix.4 I do not know whether it contains copper, but having here only fixed alkalies it gave me a precipitate of high color. This spring is called Calybia, a name which the doctor here has given it. It is distant from the fort a mile or a mile and a half. I went from there to Clarksville6 (Carlqueville). Much has been said of the beauty of the little town. There are at present only seven or eight houses, which is surprising. The air is drier there than at Louisville. They assure me they are free from fevers. The situation is fine and it is only four years since the first house was built. The lands there are splendid and even amazing in goodness, but no one goes there. I can give no other reason for this unless it be that men wish to go where there are men.

Louisville is very unhealthy and has people enough, and the hope of doing business has brought them there. Ah, my dear, what a singular emigration! There have come since the letter I wrote you from the Falls, the duplicate of which will go off with this one—there have come down since the date of my letter, which is of the 21st, to to-day, the 3d of May, thirty-four boats, each more crowded than the other, seventeen which had come and thirty-four— fifty-one boats arrived, some come every day. It is only four or five days ago that walking in the woods here I found some resin, which I call copal, although I am not positively sure that it is. But the tree from which I got it is very much like that of the Mississippi. I bring you some. They call the tree sweet-gum in this country. They were very much surprised at the fort that I found any of this resin; those who had lived here three years had not found it, such good observors they are, and to honor my sojourn in the fort they have planted one in the garden to which they have given the name Saugrain-tree. I intend to leave the fort very soon.

There has just arrived to-day, May 7th, come from Post Vincennes (veinsone), a boat. It had fourteen rowers and eight or nine passengers. It was attacked 150 or 160 miles from the fort and the Indians killed two men, (they do not know whether the Indians lost any). They believe there were forty of them. They all fired upon the boat and yet two men only were killed, and I believe it is fear which in such cases makes them so awkward. After the accident, and some miles below the place where they were attacked, they sent two men to inform the fort of it, but either they have been taken and killed by the savages, or the bad weather has detained them. They have no news of them. This same boat which has just arrived is the very one which is to take me to Fort Pitt. There will be quite a number of us and a part will go by land to help the boat in case of attack. This boat which is very large will be accompanied by two smaller ones and I believe if the Indians attack us we shall give them a bad turn. An excellent opportunity is presented and I am going to avail myself of it. Col. Blaine8 is going as far as Carlisle and I intend to travel with him, that is to say, we shall see the whole of Kentucky (quintaque) and we shall go on horseback as far as Limestone, where we shall await the boats which are to take us to Muskingum7 (Mousquingome); from there another or the same boat will take us to Wheeling (Wouilique), where I shall do my best to borrow a horse to take me to Fort Pitt, Philadelphia, etc. I am making a little book in which I shall keep exact account of everything interesting which shall present itself. I pray the savages may not catch me again. The route is not very safe. I do not, however, believe it very dangerous when the journey is made with four or five persons well-armed, but unhappily we are only Col. Blaine and myself. I have no arms and I doubt if he has any. But, "nothing venture, nothing gain," says the proverb, and I have such a desire to see Kentucky that fear is nothing to me. We shall set out to-morrow. I feel sorry to leave the fort, those who live in it are so amiable and I am so pleased with them. The same boat reports to us that a great many people are sick at Post Vincennes and it seems to me that fevers rage there as here also.

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