Friday, December 9, 2005
Bound for Ohio —Traveling in the year "1800 and froze to death"
The following are excerpts from a letter contained in the Carlisle Historical Society collection. Fradrick Blood (born 1767) was a member of the extended Blood clan whose extensive land holdings, known as Blood's Farm, once stretched from Concord to Billerica. He married three times, had six children, and in 1816 headed west with his third wife, Mary Cummings of Westford, and his younger children. One of his older children, Mary, was 20 years old in 1816 and had just married Isaac Duren. They stayed behind in Carlisle. This letter was written to Mary's new in-laws, Reuben and Susanna Russell Duren.
"I now write to you all . . . and if you compare this with them I wrote to Isaac you may see the whole of my Journey from Carlisle to Mariette where we all arrived last night safe and well."
Fradrick Blood left Carlisle in the summer of 1816, a season and a year that have gone down in history as "the year without a summer," or even more colorfully, "eighteen hundred and froze to death." Just prior to 1816 several volcanic eruptions sent ash into the atmosphere that caused a lowering in temperatures worldwide.
We know nothing about his motivation for leaving his hometown and little else about him beyond what he recorded in a letter written to the Durens back in Carlisle, but we do know that he was making his way west during one of the most unusual summers on record.
"The children have stood the last part of the journey better than the first and never was in better health than now, our horses in good order, the waggon [sic] whole . . . have lost nothing nor had no bad luck except Rains and the loss of Bridges which retarded our Journey.
"I wrote to Isaac of the rains on the mountains which was in some places 12-14-16 & 18 days & of the loss of Devils' Crick Bridge by which means I had to hire a pilot.
"It was on the 13th that I passed Bloody run where the watter [sic] run into the waggon [sic] and every house was so full that we could not put up. When we came to the last House there was more than 40 people fled there for shelter. It looked more like a Hell than a House."
The year 1816 was such an extraordinarily cold year that it became the stuff of legend. Early June saw cold weather and snow, July and August cold nights and drought conditions, and there was a killing frost in September. All these factors combined to incite "Ohio Fever," as New Englanders left their rocky hill farms for fertile Ohio. Since most people left the following year, we don't know whether "the year without a summer" motivated Fradrick Blood to leave Carlisle, but as it turns out, he was in the vanguard of pioneers leaving New England for rich Midwestern farmlands.
"[August] 24th we passed Wheeling stayed 4 Hours and went down the Ohio River 7 miles making 17 miles that day. We had been in Wheeling 20 minutes when we found Timothy Adams he was married on the 1
"The place we stayed on 24th was called Mackman's bottom on the Ohio. 25th went through Elizabeth Town [sic] and over G [torn] from that over Fish Crick and down that to Ohio making 19 miles."
In addition to meeting Timothy Adams and his new wife, the Blood family spent their last night on the trail with another migrant Carlislean, Benjamin Robbins. A number of members of the Robbins family had moved west and settled in Belpre, Ohio, not far from Marietta, the state's first permanent settlement.
Notes made in 1935 and found in the Historical Society's collection state the following: "In Belpre, in an old deserted cemetery called Cedarville, there are not more than 30 or 40 stones still standing." Among the names found there are Reuben Robbins, who was buried there in 1821, age 44, and his daughter, Malvina.
"28th in the morning we crossed the Ohio in a flat and went down on the Ohio side, crossed the little Muskingum in a flat and got to Mariette at sunset being 25 miles. We found Mr. Robbins family all well except the baby.
"We found a very bad road the greater part of the way from Chambersburgh though all the land except on the Mountains is very good but I must think it is so mountainous that I should not be willing to stay among them Especially in Virginia on account of the Negroes. But after I crossed the Ohio I think the land is better & more plesent [sic] but I have had no time to look around. When I have I will write again-"
Discomfort may be our reaction to the racist overtones in the above paragraph, but it is important to remember that Fradrick Blood was a product of his times. In addition, the context for his statement is unknown.
It is not known how long Fradrick and Mary Blood and their children remained in Marietta. At some point they moved west, settling in St. Albans, now Alexandria, in central Ohio, where they spent the remainder of their lives.
"This from your Brother Fradrick Blood, Ohio Mariette, Sunday 29 Sept. 1816."
On the fold of the letter is written:
"Don't Grieve too much
Away Down East
Your lot with us may yet be cast
it would not be Strange if after all
Your Farther's home
Should be your own."
© 2005 The Carlisle Mosquito