Hidden Gem: Travelogue of Juliet Bestor Coleman, 1833

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While we have a lot of large, impressive digital collections in Acumen, sometimes the most interesting things come in small packages.

In 1833, about thirty years before the Civil War, 24-year-old Juliet Bestor traveled from her home in Connecticut to La Grange, Alabama, to get married.

map of eastern US

A nine page travelogue, part of the Meriwether Family Papers, details this three-week journey, on road and river. Here are some highlights:


Traveling by boat: “Took the boat Robert Morris for New Castle on Sunday morning at 6 o’clock & proceeded down the Deleware river – the scenery on this river is delightful having Jersey on the left & Penn. on the right…”


Riding without rest: “…arrived at Baltimore at 9 o’clock P.M. & finding we could take no stage-line for Wheeling without waiting 2 days we jumped in the stage for Washington City (without either dinner or rest) where we arrived about 1/2 past 10 on Sunday evening having left Phil. the same morning!”


At the hot springs: “…then passed the warm and hot springs – this water is from 96 to 107 in temperature & feels very warm & is strongly sulphurous – we next came to the white sulphur springs – these are very clear – cold & taste strong of sulphur…”


Crossing the Blue Ridge (Virginia): “…began to ascend the blue Ridge – the air on these mountains is very clean & cold – then descending came to a little village called Wainsborough where we stopped to change horses & made till 2 then dined then till 7 & spent the night.”


Stopping at a bluff: “…we got out of our carriage & were obliged to walk some distance to look over the tremendous precipice said to be 1000 feel in depth at the foot of which runs New river which looked like a very small creek from its distance. The huge oaks beneath us appeared like shrubbery – Such a truly sublime & awful prospect I never witnessed…”


In Louisville (Kentucky): “…here we found a good publick house which seemed quite refreshing after such a dreary trip of 300 miles on the river. – walked out about a mile next morning to see the town…”


Journey’s end: “I met his family waiting my arrival. – Then I enjoyed for the first time for three weeks that unmolested rest which I so much needed – yet notwithstanding all the fatigues of journeying I must say I am passionately fond of it.”

The second wife of James Cobb Coleman, Juliet had six children over the course of ten years in Alabama. She died in 1850, at the age of 41.

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