Henry Caswall



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Caswall writes to his father about his journey through America to Ohio and his initial impressions of Kenyon College as a student. He gives a detailed account of his activities and the College operations, and expresses his love for the school and Bp. Chase.




Niagara, Manchester, Buffalo, Lake Erie, Sandusky, Bp. Chase, Ohio Society, Society of Arts and Sciences, Mr. West, Liberia, Philander Chase Jr., Mrs. Chase, student life


Kenyon College, Gambier, Knox County

My dear Father

This is Sunday the 5th October & this day week I was viewing the falls of Niagara. I took a sketch of that stupendous cataract from the side of the river belonging to the United States, of which I enclose a little copy.


Island. Canadian shore. American shore.

There is a little town called Manchester built close to the rapids which contains several first rate hotels. A bridge has been built thro’ the rapids to the island and bathing houses to which the fashionable people resort have been erected upon the island. Another bridge continues from the island [onwards] half way to the canadian shore and on the very brink of the cataract. I walked over to the beautiful little island with the greatest ease & safety. The falls are 150 feet in height. I reached Buffalo the same evening. Buffalo was burnt by the British in 1812 but has since that period rapidly risen and contains many first rate hotels among which Rathbun’s hotel is eminently superb. On Monday morning I embarked on board the steam boat Niagara and after a pleasant passage over Lake Erie arrived at Sandusky on Tuesday at 2 oclock AM. This trip of 250 miles cost me 8 dollars. Sandusky contains several tolerable inns but is, on the whole, rather a miserable place. I was unable to leave Sandusky till Thursday morning when I started in a stage coach. (I wrote to my uncle [Bargess] from Sandusky.) I slept at Mansfield and reached a little town called Mount Vernon at 12 oclock on Friday. Mount Vernon is only 6 miles from this place, therefore I hired one of the light little waggons of this country, and arrived here safe with all my luggage within an hour. I shall now give you a description of the American travelling. The roads are without exception bad, but this is amply compensated by the beauty of the natural scenery. The coaches are clumsy looking, and travel about 7 miles an hour carrying 9 inside and sometimes one outside passenger besides the [?]. The grand American canal extends from Albany to Buffalo a distance of 362 miles thro’ a beautiful count[try]. The tow boats are superb and travel at the rate of 4 ½ miles per hour being drawn by 3 horses each. The expense is 4 cents (21 pence) per mile and the fare is of the first quality. The trading tow boats charge only 1 cent (one half penny) per mile. I would recommend the canal to all who are not in a hurry, and wish to save themselves from the terrible jolting of the coaches. The hotels thorougho[ut] the state of New York certainly equal those in England. All the inmates of the hotel dine together at about 2 oclock. They are summoned together by a bell and the table is covered profusely with excellent dishes. The cost of a dinner seldom exceeds 30 cents (15 pence). During the time I was at New York (3 ½ days) I paid at the rate of 12 dollars per week. I would recommend the [Adelph’s] hotel where I stopped to all persons going to America. I will now describe this place.

The site has been removed more than 30 miles from the spot mentioned in the Bishop’s letter to L Kenyon. The college now stands upon a beautiful hill, a few hundred yards north of Owl Creek & 6 miles east of Mount Vernon. From the top of the college is an extensive view of many miles, but nothing is seen except the almost interminable forests of this country which extend for hundreds of miles on every side. The trees are most majestic. The wild animals are numerous. There are 3 kinds of bear 2 of which are very fierce. There are likewise many wolves. The rattle snakes are innumerable (notwithstanding Bullock’s assertion). The Bishop tells me that the workmen have killed great quantities and [?] 6 hanging up in this room which were killed under the windows a few days ago. Nobody is afraid of them. There are also wild boars, deer, & wild turkies [sic]. The pigeons are innumerable. No town of any kind is built here as yet and the college will not be habita[ble] before next summer. There are only a few temp[orary] wooden building erected for the use of the bishop, the professors & the students. There are both a school & a college with about 50 students. The following is the plan of the present erections. The bishops palace consists of a few logs laid together & roofed with shingles. The Bishop is a most delightful man he is American a native of Vermont. He has given up everything that he may forward the college. He has just sold his little farm to procure money to pay the workmen. When I arrived here I had the small sum of 80 dollars remaining from the expenses of my journey. I immediately put it into the bishop’s hands, and you cannot imagine with what transports he received it. He said that at the time he had not a dollar in his possession but that God had continued to supply him in this fortuitous manner like Elijah in the wilderness. Mrs. Chase is a delightful & wonderful woman about 35 years old. The bishop is scarcely 60 & without a single grey hair. The college will be a fine building 70 feet long with a tall steeple. The term will not exceed at the utmost 30 hours during the whole time I remain in the college [?], until I am 21 when the bishop says I may take orders. Food is so cheap that we live quite luxuriously. The students are never employed at manual labour; indeed all is much the same as an English college. The schoolboys have no bounds but range the forest at liberty. Few however venture far off for fear of losing themselves in which case they might be starved. I find that I shall occupy a high rank int he [C]ollege & probably take my degree of Bachelor of Arts in the ensuing spring. The collegians are all most amiable and exemplary young men. Prayers are held 7 times a day; and on Sundays the young men meet and pray in the evening and afterwards one of them preaches extempore for an hour on a given chapter int he Bible. They do this in turns and they instituted the meeting of their own accord and not through the suggestion of the Bishop. They have also instituted a Society of Arts and Sciences. A fine printing press with types has just arrived & the Bishop has been so kind as to send for a journeyman printer to teach printing to some of the senior Collegians including myself. We shall employ our leisure time in printing tracts for the Ohio Society, reprinting English works & publishing a periodical magazine of our own. Every thing here is harmony, good order, benevolence and piety. Indeed I think that if happiness can exist in this world it exists here. The good bishop himself tells me that he considers it an aft type of a future world. It is impossible to see the students, both collegians & schoolboys, without admiration. Though as free as the wild deer, they live together in the greatest love and peace. There is no fighting, no quarrelling [sic], no swearing. Yet they are natives of many parts of the world. There is a Hindoo, a Greek, several French, a few Welch & Irish but for the most part Americans. I am the only Englishman. I was received with the greatest cordiality and kindness by the bishop & by the students. Yesterday evening (it is now Monday) the bishop (whom I love more & more every hour) took me round his domain. He has had 8000 acres of forest granted him by Congress, of which he has brought 800 into cultivation he shewed me his saw mill which has erected from his own design, [and] his Indian corn mill & wheat mill which he has likewise erected on Owl creek from his own plans. He showed me a place in the forest where the church is to be erected. It will be large enough to hold 1000 persons. A cucumber tree stands where the communion table will stand, a sumach tree supplies the place of the future font and a stately sycamore holds the place of the steeple. A few yards further he showed me the grave of the first person an old man who died in this little colony. The diocesan has railed the grave round to preserve it from the wild animals, and with his own hands has trained a wild vine to overshadow it. Very near this, in a beautifully sequestered spot he pointed out to me the spot of ground in which he hopes to lie himself in a few years. He only prays that he may be allowed enough of life to see his beloved colony and institution flourishing and complete. I am sure that if the zeal of this worthy bishop, and his scanty means were sufficiently known in England, many would come forward to assist. Even the small sum of one dollar is received by him with the greatest thankfulness. The college will be a truly handsome & noble building, in the gothic style of architecture. The wages of the workmen amount to 70 or 80 dollars a day. I have given the bishop the bill for 100 €. I shall pay him in advance which will be a great assistance to him. The bishops title is Right Revd. He has a very young family having been married only ten years. He has been married before and his eldest son Philander, a young clergyman died a few years ago. The [?] has [heard] [no] news of Mr. West who is in England. Most of the young men educated here become missionaries. I myself shall probably become one of that body, in which case I shall do my utmost to promote the cause of Christianity and the consequent well being of my fellow creatures. There is a free black colony on the coast of Africa called Liberia to which two young clergymen are about to proceed from hence. There will be an Ordination confirmation & Holy Sacrament hold here next Friday. Will you present my duty to my mother and love to my brothers, sisters, and relations and Believe me my dear Father your dutiful Son

H. Caswall

Letter to Rev. R. C. Caswall



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