*EXTRACT FROM A LETTER WRITTEN IN
PENNSYLVANIA BY THOMAS PASKEL, THE
EMIGRANT, TO J. J. CHIPPENHAM,
DATED FEBRUARY10, 1683, NEW STYLE.
(This letter was written by the ancestor of Henry Paschall who built the Blue Bell Inn on Cobbs Creek. The use of the letter “f” in place of the letter “s” has been removed. The original document can be viewed in Vol 6, Pg 3 of the Pennsylvanla Magaxine,and was found in THE BOOK OF JOHN HOWELL AND HIS DESCENDANTS by Frances Howell, published by the Winthrop Press, New York, 1897. Transcribed by John Haigis)
After having affectionately saluted you, your wife and all your family hoping that you are in good health as we are, except one of my servants and a carpenter, who, though young and vigorous, died on the vessel, but God be praised my wife and myself have not been sick, on the contrary we are better than when in England, and continue in this state through the goodness of God.
I am not concerned about the health of this country, for not only ourselves but all the people of another vessel which arrived with ours are all well, having loft only one person, also on the vessel, and all those who have come since we did, are well also.
William Penn and those of his company have arrived in good health and he has been received with great satisfaction, as also in New York where he went and was generously treated. There is a city here called Philadelphia, where there is a market, and another at Chester that was formerly called Upland, and William Penn is striving to bring about union between the cities.
I have recently been on the other side of the river de Laware at Burlington in West Jersey at the fair where there was a great concourse of people and great abundance of English merchandise that we could get for a reasonable price, for this country is full of goods, tin and copper are very common. I took them some carisee's that I could not sell. There is need here of Spanish cloth, of frizettes or ratteens and iron pots, but what is most in demand is linen and coarse stuffs.
There are some Swedes and Finns who have lived here forty years and lead an easy life through the abundance of commodities, but their clothes were very mean before the coming of the English, from whom they have bought good ones and they begin to show themselves a little proud. They are all industrious people. They employ in their buildings little or no iron. They will build for you a house without any other implements than an axe. With the same implement they will cut down a tree and have it in pieces in less time than two other men would spend in sawing it, and with this implement and some wooden wedges they split it and make boards of it or any thing else they please with much skill. The most of them speak English, Swedish, Finnish, and Dutch. They plant a little tobacco and a little Indian corn. The women are good housekeepers. The most of the linen they wear they spin the flax and make themselves.
When we arrived the first time, we saw a quantity of little fish that hid themselves under the water and also some great fish which leaped in the water. This river de Laware is a beautiful and agreeable river and has many kinds of fish in great abundance. The country which is along the river de Laware about 160 miles from the sea is generally cultivated principally on the Pennsylvania fide, and also along the little rivers by the Swedes, Finns, and Dutch, among whom the English have begun to intrude, buying houses from them. Thus some locate on the great rivers, others on the little ones, and others go a little further 7 or 8 miles beyond in the woods so that all the land which is along the great and little rivers is all taken.
Thomas Colburn has gone to live in the woods three miles or an hour's journey from here. He is in a good situation and has already gained 14 acres of wheat, and with his trade 30 or 40 pounds sterling within the little time that he has been here.
I have rented a house for my family during this winter, and I have built a little house on my land for my domestics. I live on the banks of the river Schuylkill, near enough to the City of Philadelphia, and I have already cleared 6 acres. I can truly say that since I left Bristol I have never wished to return there. Some English have gone to fettle in the upper country and they have sowed this year 40 to 50 bushels of wheat, with which they can plant 14 or 16 acres. They have beside many cattle. For the most part men eat here rye bread, not because they have not wheat but because they have more rye. For they have here two kinds of wheat, winter wheat that they sow in the fall, and summer wheat that they sow in March. They harvest them both in the month of June, after which they work the land again and sow buckwheat which they gather in September.
I have eaten here as good bread and drunk as good beer as in England. They have also as good butter and as good cheese as in most places in England.
Grain is no longer dear here for although this year there have arrived 24 vessels loaded with people which has caused dearness of provisions in some places, it is the fact that I have never paid for a measure (mine) of the best wheat more than 28 pence, and that in merchandize which cost me almost a half less in England. A measure (mine) of rye may be bought for 21 or 22 pence, barley the same both in winter and in summer, oats and three kinds of Indian corn as good to make beer as barley, each measure sixteen pence or 4 florins, each florin of 4 pence. I have bought here good beef, pork, and mutton for two pence a pound and sometimes less. Turkeys (Corgs d'Inde) and wild geese for two or three pounds of lead shot a piece and ducks for a pound and that in quantity.
There are here very great quantities of birds and one hardly thinks it worth while to shoot at ring pigeons and pheasants. One can get venison from the Indians cheap and formerly they gave it to the Swedes for a half less. I have had three deer for three ells of coarse stuff which cost me less than three florins, and the most part of the time still better bargains can be made. We have also had this fall bear's meat for nothing or for very little. It is pretty good food and tastes a little like beef. They have recently sold many horses for Barbados, and from Barbados they fend us abundance of beef, sugar, and molasses or syrup of sugar.
Our gardens supply us all forts of herbs and even some which are not in England. Here are roses, currants, goose- berries, turnips, white carrots, and onions better than in England. Peaches of three kinds, and in such quantity that they let them fall on the ground where they rot and the swine eat them. They extract from these peaches a good spirit with stills, as also from grain, cherries, prunes, and grapes, for which purpose almost every one has a copper boiler in his house. There are also pears and apples in great abundance, cherries and apricots, some black and others red, prunes and quinces.
The woods are full of oaks, very high and straight. Many are about two feet in diameter and some even more, and a Swede will cut down for you a dozen of the largest in a day. We have here beautiful poplars, beeches, ash, linden, fir, gooseberry, sassafras, chestnut, hazelnut, mulberry and walnut trees, but few cedars and pines. There grow in the woods many black currants, strawberries, blackberries, better than in England, and also three kinds of grapes and prunes.
There is here an abundance of marcasite [iron pyrites]. Almost everywhere there are numbers of streams which flow over falls in the woods. I have seen recently some very good salt to salt meat, which was brought to me from the woods by an Indian. They say it is easy to find enough of it. As to metals or minerals I have only seen the marcasite, of which is made vitriol and red copper in England.
Here there are beavers, raccoons, wolves, bears, and a kind of lions, wildcats, muskrats, elks, weasels, martens, squirrels, and other little beasts. None of the above animals will hurt you unless you attack them. There are also green and brown snakes in the woods after the month of September.
The Indians are very gentle and peaceable, having good intelligence and many good qualities, but when they are ill-treated they revenge themselves. They live more civilly since the English came among them, so that they sell necessaries one half cheaper than before. Many of them even begin to talk English. I heard one of them say: ' The Swede is not a good man, the German is not a good man, but the Englishman is a good man.'
For the seasons of the year I can say very little, but since we have been here we have enjoyed very good weather. This country is for the moss part a good country, but in some places the land is thin and dry.
There are also some valleys here which the Swedes value very highly, and which many people will have to do without.
I know here three men who have found a piece of land of about 100 acres in extent entirely clear of trees, thickets, stumps and roots, which can be worked without trouble, and the further one goes into the country the more she finds of such land. There is good land filled with large and small trees and some good land where not a tree grows. The winter is severe, and it is troublesome to take care of cattle. Those who bring them here ought to be people who work and understand agriculture.
I would strongly advise those who come here to provide themselves with good provisions, so as to live more comfortably on the vessel and to have still some left when they reach land, for though it is very easy by means of the river to get things of which you have need at a reasonable price, it is sometimes necessary to go far to seek them, which is to lose much time. It is true they are trying to bring it about that all places be well furnished.
Penn., Feb. 10, 1683 [new ftyle].