The Journey of Sarah Knight (1666-1727)

In October 1704, Sarah Knight left her home town of Boston, MA, for a five-month journey on horseback to New York, which she recorded in a travel diary which is memorable for its descriptions of the perils and people she encountered along the way, her observations of local characteristics, and racist comments on native Americans and slaves. Also notable, in contrast to several writers I’ve profiled this month, is the near absence of God: Sarah is more grateful to her human guides than to divine Providence for her deliverances from danger.

‘Terrifying darkness’ and the ‘kind conductress of the night’:

Here We found great difficulty in Travailing, the way being very narrow, and on each side the Trees and bushes gave us very unpleasent welcomes wth their Branches and bow’s, wch wee could not avoid, it being so exceeding dark. My Guide, as before so now, putt on harder than I, wth my weary bones, could follow; so left mee and the way beehind him. Now Returned my distressed aprehensions of the place where I was: the dolesome woods, my Company next to none, Going I knew not whither, and encompased wth Terrifying darkness; The least of which was enough to startle a more Masculine courage. Added to which the Reflections, as in the afternoon of ye day that my Call was very Questionable, wch till then I had not so Prudently as I ought considered. Now, coming to ye foot of a hill, I found great difficulty in ascending; But being got to the Top, was there amply recompenced with the friendly Appearance of the Kind Conductress of the night, Just then Advancing above the Horisontall Line. The Raptures wch the Sight of that fair Planett produced in mee, caused mee, for the Moment, to forgett my present wearyness and past toils; and Inspir’d me for most of the remaining way with very divirting tho’ts, some of which, with the other Occurances of the day, I reserved to note down when I should come to my Stage. [16]

Devilish hosts:

About four in the morning, we set out for Kingston… This Rode was poorly furnished wth accommodations for Travellers, so that we were forced to ride 22 miles by the post’s account, but neerer thirty by mine, before wee could bait so much as our Horses, wch I exceedingly complained of. But the post encourag’d mee, by saying wee should be well accommodated anon at mr. Devil’s, a few miles further. But I questioned whether we ought to go to the Devil to be helpt out of affliction. However, like the rest of Deluded souls that post to ye Infernal denn, Wee made all posible speed to this Devil’s Habitation; where alliting, in full assurance of good accommodation, wee were going in. But meeting his two daughters, as I suposed twins, they so neerly resembled each other, both in features and habit, and look’t as old as the Divel himselfe, and quite as Ugly, We desired entertainm’t, but could hardly get a word out of ‘um, till with our Importunity, telling them our necesity, & c. they call’d the old Sophister, who was as sparing of his words as his daughters had bin, and no, or none, was the reply’s bee made us to our demands. Hee differed only in this from the old fellow in to’ther Country: hee let us depart.  [20]

‘Buggbears’ (both geographical and human):

Here wee took leave of York Government, and Descending the Mountainos passage that almost broke my heart in ascending before, we come to Stamford, a well compact Town, but miserable meeting house, wch we passed, and thro’ many and great difficulties, as Bridges which were exceeding high and very tottering and of vast Length, steep and Rocky Hills and precipices, (Buggbears to a fearful female travailer.) About nine at night we come to Norrwalk, having crept over a timber of a Broken Bridge about thirty foot long, and perhaps fifty to ye water. I was exceeding tired and cold when we come to our Inn, and could get nothing there but poor entertainment, and the impertinant Bable of one of the worst of men, among many others of which our Host made one, who, had he bin one degree Impudenter, would have outdone his Grandfather. And this I think is the most perplexed night I have yet had…

From hence we went to Stamford, the next Town, in which I observed but few houses, and those not very good ones. But the people that I conversed with were civill and good natured. Here we staid till late at night, being to cross a Dangerous River ferry, the River at that time full of Ice; but after about four hours waiting with great difficulty wee got over. My fears and fatigues prevented my here taking any particular observation. Being got to Milford, it being late in the night, I could go no further; my fellow travailer going forward, I was invited to Lodg at Mrs. –, a very kind and civill Gentlewoman, by whom I was handsomely and kindly entertained till the next night. The people here go very plain in their apparel (more plain than I had observed in the towns I had passed) and seem to be very grave and serious. They told me there was a singing Quaker lived there, or at least had a strong inclination to be so, His Spouse not at all affected that way. Some of the singing Crew come there one day to visit him, who being then abroad, they sat down (to the woman’s no small vexation) Humming and singing and groneing after their conjuring way–Says the woman are you singing quakers? Yea says They–Then take my squalling Brat of a child here and sing to it says she for I have almost split my throat wth singing to him and cant get the Rogue to sleep. They took this as a great Indignity, and mediately departed. Shaking the dust from their Heels left the good woman and her Child among the number of the wicked. [52]

The Journal of Madam Knight (Early Americas Digital Archive)

Overland travel in Connectict from footpaths to interstates

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