This interesting letter was written in 1818 by a woman named Jane Voorhees shortly after completing her overland journey from Monmouth county, New Jersey to Butler county, Ohio, by way of Carlisle, Pennsylvania, along what must have been Forbes military road.
She wrote the letter to her cousin, Tunis Garret Vanderveer (1757-1823), the son of Garret D. Vanderveer (1730-1803) and Jannetje Voorhees (1735-1813) of Freehold township, Monmouth, New Jersey.
Addressed to Mr. Tunis G. Vanderveer, Monmouth county, State of New Jersey, Township of Freehold
State of Ohio
October 20, 1818
I write these lines to inform you that I am better than I have been for I have been very ill with chills and fever. And I hope these lines may find you and all your family in health.
As to my dear brother, he received me very kind indeed and told me he had expected me on all summer and [was] much pleased that I brought John with me. I told him I had brought a boy to work for him and wait on us in our old days and brother told me he was afraid my poor health would not admit of so hard a journey. I told him that I had put my whole trust in God and the Lord Jesus Christ and it had pleased the merciful God to grant poor me a great deal of healing grace which I prayed for or I should never got here. I told him I did not let myself on that wagon with any dependence of my own strength.
My brother told me he had to pay for his board at Nicholas Barkalow’s ¹ ever since sister Caty moved away and came home on nights and worked his land. Tell my sister Dulche that my brother’s hand is so that he can’t write but little with it. He has worked so hard and help so scarce. You must write to us both.
I found my brother’s house plenty of all kinds of good provisions. Plenty of good wheat, plenty of good corn and oats, and flax. John and his uncle has laid out one load. The place [is] well stocked with cattle and sheep and hogs and horses as fat as seals and three calves sucking the cows till they are like beefs. And sugar plenty and plenty of hogs lard.
We have a good log house and my brother has had a very good brick chimney made and oven in it and has stone-[line]d a very deep well and good water and grand wood to burn. We have a mill about a mile off. Tunis went to mill and bought as good wheat flour as you can buy in New York.
And now I must say something about my hard travel on the road and the hard wagon master I had. The first day I left Monmouth when I was some miles on the road, I told him I wanted to go as far if I could to Garret Covenhoven’s ² in Upper Freehold for I had promised to come there when I was on the road to the New World. I had business there and I wanted to see Eleanor Coward and her children to bid them farewell. No, no, that could not be allowed. Disobligeness and contrariness began the first day in this wagon and got no better till the last day. So [we] went on [to] within four miles [of] Allentown to William West’s and staid that night. Next morning when I was a most to the town, I told Williamson that I had a good old neighbor — Miss Vanhorn — that lived with her son John in that town [and] I wanted to stop and bid them farewell. And I did expect that they would give me and my company their breakfast [but] no, no. I was not allowed to get out of the wagon nor see anybody. I told him that I had two dollars in paper money that I had forgot. He must take them and change them [but] he has no time.
So we went on to Trenton. I told him I wanted to get out of the wagon and go in the stores to change my money and look for me a spectacle [ ] was no time for me to get out. I sat still but when I came to the bridge there was [ ], I sent my bills to be changed. I thought they both was Philadelphia but when I came to look, they both was York bills. So I have sent it back with my brother’s money [as we were] told [it] won’t pass here and he is afraid he has got some now that won’t pass here.
So we went over the big bridge. ³ In the afternoon came on a great rain and wonderful hard weather with thunder and lightning. When it was evening, the wagon was drove under a shed. It rained so that I could not get out of the wagon so John laid down and got asleep so tired a walking. I sat up in my bed and everything round me wet and damp. The cover to our wagon was no better much than a sieve to shed rain. I always did plead for a pained cover to the wagon where I was to come in [but] no, no, that could not be for me. In this night I thought I never had hard luck or hard weather [before].
After midnight, there came men round the wagon with a candle. I said, “who there?” Nobody spoke. I said, “Boys, are you come to see if I am dead or not?” Nobody spoke. Then I rose up and shoved the curtain and there was three men in the forepart of the wagon. “You villains! What do here?” I called to John to get up and get [his] rifle for the robbers was in the wagon. He rose up and spoke and then they went off. When morning was come, I said if that was the way guarding the wagon [was going to be], I should have to give it up and I did not know how that wold be neither for they had no bed nor bedding — not so much as a coverlet. Then I told them that if I had to find them bed clothes and sleep in, that they should pay for my house room. They agreed so I had to let them have my rug and bead quilt and they are so rubbed and worn that they are not worth much, and so dirty. I walked every day when it did not rain. My day trials was great but nothing to nights for we would travel in the night first Sabbath. I was on the road in the afternoon towards night, wonderful flowers rising.
We came to a town by the name of Carlisle. Then it was night and rained. I pleaded to stop and stay there for it was very hard weather [but] no, no, they must go a mile and a half further. [It was] the hardest weather ever I seen. Such wonderful rain. Myself and my bed got very wet and all my things wet and poor john out in all the hard weather. Nothing dry to him. I got the landlord’s house. I asked him how far it was from that town. He told me five miles. I felt very poorly and did not know what to do with myself and things. The landlord said it was a shame to keep such an old lady in the rain so. [He was] the best man I seen on the road. His name was john Baker. He ordered his black man to make me a fire to dry john’s and my clothes and I had to sit up all night to dry them. I made out to get a dry shirt out my chest for John so he laid on my wet bed in the night. Toward day I was took very bad with the colic. I had no kind of medicine to take. I felt myself wholly repined to the will of the Lord if my time was come. I waked up the black man and sent him to his master to know if he had some laudanum or perryovek [?]. He told me he had none. He went and got me some medicine. He told me to take that. When I took hold of the glass to take it, may it be the will of the Lord to grant his blessing with the medicine and bring relief. Then the man sat down and talked very beautiful to me. He was a man of grace and charity. I never had no well day nor night since that night. Chills and fevers. This good man said I should bring my things and myself in his house and stay till my brother could come for me if they would not promise to do better for me. So in the morning, I told them that I was a going to stay with [them] at this house without you will promise to use me better. So they promised to do better and then I got in the wagon. Poor was the better for when we came to the mountains and hills, I was ordered out of the wagon to walk up them. I told him if my life was spared, I should write to Tunis G. Vanderveer to know if he hired him to cart me for me to come so many mountains and I would rather give Captain Ervison one hundred dollars, the Peter fifty.
— Jane Voorhis
¹ Nicholas Daniel Barkalow (1778-1858) was the son of Derrick Barkalow & Lydia Stillwell of Freehold township, Monmouth county, New Jersey. He was married to Jane Williamson (1785-1871) in Ohio in 1806. In 1820, Nicholas and his family lived in Madison, Butler county, Ohio.
² Garret Covenhoven of Upper Freehold, Monmouth county, New Jersey, was the son of Garret Covenhoven (1726-1812) and Nelly VanMater (1730-1784).
³ The big toll bridge over the Delaware River at Trenton, New Jersey, was a structure 1,100 feet long with five arches made of cut stone.
My passion is studying American history leading up to & including the Civil War. I particularly enjoy reading, transcribing & researching primary sources such as letters and diaries.