July 25, 1832

On 25 July, at three thirty in the morning, the stagecoach arrived in front of the United States inn to take me aboard. The night had been so warm that one could scarcely sleep, especially in the small, heated rooms of the inn; it was still very warm that morning so that one could hardly endure a coat. We took still more passengers on board at the stage office, and then traveled a long way through the city before daybreak. One saw the cemeteries with their white monuments, for in these cities all of them are located along the streets and are often planted with trees, like gardens. Even far from the city there are elegant country houses, then individual dwellings, fields, fenced-in areas, old, single trees such as European and American poplars, Platanus, paper mulberry, basswood trees, tall catalpas, black locusts, etc., everywhere along the highway.

We drove through Germantown and at eight o’clock reached Chestnut Hill, where we took another stage with fresh horses and had breakfast in the meantime. Breakfast was on the table but was besieged by countless flies, and a girl continually waved a branch, a task for which straw whisks or fans are generally used here. The coffee was extremely bad and weak, but it still tasted good to our hungry stomachs. From here on, and all through this region until past Bethlehem (56 miles from Philadelphia), almost all the planters and farmers are of German descent. All of them spoke a poor German and admit they prefer to speak German.

This area is not particularly attractive. Fields of clover, oats, potatoes, and corn as tall as a man alternate with meadows and small thickets. Everything is enclosed with planks (rail fences) or with zigzag fences.

Figure 2.21 Zigzag fence observed between Chestnut Hill and Montgomeryville.

The ground was mostly a dark reddish soil. In some places one saw limestone rocks and several lime kilns. At Montgomeryville we changed horses for the second time, and from here on, the road had far more variety. The farmers’ homes are mostly small and often rather shabby, and one easily notes that the English race does not live here. Most of the houses are made of boards and roofed with shingles. Often, however, they are mere log cabins made of trunks lying one on top of the other; the intervening spaces are filled with stones and pieces of wood smeared with lime, which gives them an odd, streaked appearance. All these small houses have gardens in which various European and American trees and all kinds of flowers bloomed, particularly mallow (Malva), with its very beautiful, colored blossoms. Frequently, however, I saw Hibiscus syriacus in its greatest splendor, particularly in the vicinity of Philadelphia. I have never seen this plant so tall or sturdy in Europe as it is here; it grows as high as fifteen feet and is covered with the most magnificent flowers. There are three varieties here, with violet, white, and bright bloodred-peach colors, certainly the most beautiful by far. Trees and shrubs in this country generally attain an excellent growth.[Page 1:48] Platanus, catalpa, and Bignonia radicans attain a significant height, and today I saw very thick trunks of the first along the road.

The forest gradually became larger and larger. We drove through magnificent lofty woods with several different kinds of oak, walnut, ash, sassafras, chestnut, and other tall forest trees, but with the exception of a single small woodland, none had any undergrowth but were clear around the trunks. In one area there were a great many stone blocks scattered in the forest and in other places; in some places they were a hindrance to travel. In one of these forests we broke an axle beam on the coach, which we repaired only after working for a long time. Woods alternated pleasantly with meadows. Several distant mountains appeared, and there was much woodland in this region.

The beautiful redheaded woodpecker (Picus erythrocephalus) was extremely common here. It can be recognized at a distance from the large white spot formed by its flight feathers, half the tail, and lower back when it is in flight. We often saw this beautiful bird on fence rails along the road, and several times we saw the red squirrel (Sciurus hudsonius) and the chipmunk (Sciurus striatus), which were very common here, especially along plank fences and other enclosures. We saw many other interesting birds: Sylvia sialis, the bluebird, as well as the robin, the fox-colored thrush (Turdus rufus), and several others.

At Quakertown, actually ⟨[——]⟩, we changed horses again, then proceeded toward Freiburg (the English spell it Fryburgh).M17Freiburg, 8 miles from Bethlehem. We traveled through numerous beautiful woods. In some places the trees had been cut down, but in a very uneconomic manner: two-to three-foot-high stumps had been left standing. In the bright sunshine we saw a Caprimulgus americanus of slender form flying in a meadow, as it does in Brazil; these, too, had the white stripe on their wings like those ⟨[in Brazil]⟩. Crows and blackbirds also appeared, but so far I have not seen any birds of prey. The redheaded woodpecker seemed to be the most common bird.

This region of Pennsylvania is very beautiful. The most luxuriant lofty forests here spread forth their tall, leafy crowns. We drove very swiftly from Freiburg to Bethlehem. Here the region is hilly and a somewhat narrower valley has been formed. Here Germans live everywhere; one discovers this immediately from the inscriptions on their houses, where their names are written. Beautiful green wooded mountains enclose the valley on all sides. Suddenly we reach the beautiful, rather broad Lehigh River, which is spanned by a bridge, and now ⟨[we]⟩ are in Bethlehem.M18Together with a fine canal. The view from the bridge along the river is very picturesque: green woods and luxuriant thickets on all sides.M19On the way from Philadelphia to Bethlehem, one passes the following creeks: Saucon, Swamp, Tohickon, Northeast Branch, West Branch, Wissahickon Creek.

Bethlehem is a colony of the Moravian Brethren in North America and one of the more outstanding ones. It is situated on the slope of a hill, has an impressive-looking church with a nice steeple, a cupola supported by several columns, and several handsome buildings such as are the sisters’ domicile and hospital the schoolhouse (boarding school). At present the town consists of only a few streets, which are still unpaved in the center but provided with good stone sidewalks (trottoirs) along the houses.M20About 1,000 persons live here now. Below the house for unmarried women schoolhouse is the Pleasure Ground, a lovely shady garden with the most beautiful cluster of trees and pathways. Beside it flows the Monocacy, a cool, clear stream. This garden is enclosed by high boards. Much pretty shrubbery of domestic and foreign kinds is also found in front of the houses.

The English inn Zum Adler of Zenas Wells is quite impressive and very good.M21And on the canal down below, a second, all-German inn is located. Apparently the families fleeing from the cholera lived in the first inn. The corridors of the building are cool. The rooms, that is, the sleeping cells, are small and therefore warm. Below, on one side of the house, there is a covered open space with benches that is completely surrounded on all sides with Lonicera sempervirens, Clematis, and Hedera quinquefolia, which provide dark shade. Stages depart from here daily at eight o’clock in the morning for Philadelphia; others leave at four o’clock in the morning for Mauch Chunk, ten miles away, a wild, extremely mountainous forest region where there are said to be bear, deer, and various other kinds of game. Still other stages leave for Easton and Reading.

Date: 
Wednesday, July 25, 1832
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Nina Crabtree
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