Excerpts From the Journal of John Wesley
Contributed by: David Wall, December 4, 2005. Posted on this site with permission from David Wall
From “The Journal of John Wesley” Vol. I.
14th October 1735 to 15th June 1738 edited by Nehemiah Curnock & assisted by experts
(many footnotes are available in the journal and were omitted from this presentation)
- Georgia lies in the 30th and 31st degree of north latitude. The air is generally clear, the rains being much shorter, as well as heavier, than in England. The dews are very great. Thunder and lightning are expected almost every day in May, June, July and August. They are very terrible, especially to a stranger. During those months, from ten in the morning to four in the afternoon, the sun is extremely scorching. But the sea-breeze generally blows from ten till three or four. The winter is nearly of the same length as in England. But the midday sun is always warm, even when the mornings and evenings are very sharp, and the nights piercing cold.
- The land is of four sorts—pine-barren, oak-land, swamp, Georgia was the only strip on the eastern coast of America not already parcelled out; it was a wilderness over which England held only a nominal jurisdiction. and marsh. The pine-land is of far the greatest extent, especially near the sea-coast. The soil of this is a dry, whitish sand, producing shrubs of several sorts, and between them a spiry, coarse grass, which cattle do not love to feed on. But here and there is a little of a better kind, especially in the savannahs, so they call the low, watery meadows, which are usually intermixed with pine-lands. It bears naturally two sorts of fruit,–whortleberries, much like those in England; and Chinkapin-nuts, a dry, harsh nut, about the size of a small acorn. A laborious man may, in one year, clear and plant four of five acres of this land. It will produce, the first year, from two to four bushels of Indian corn, and from four to eight of Indian pease, per acre. The second year it usually bears half as much; the third less; the forth, nothing. The American suffered in these swamps and sandy deserts, called Pine-barrens, in the War of Independence.
- Vines, mulberries and peach-trees it bears well. The white berry, and has much the same flavour. In fresh pine-land, Indian potatoes grow well—which are more luscious and larger than the Irish; and so do watermelons and sewee-beans, about the size of our scarlet, but to be shelled and eaten like Windsor beans.
- Oak-land commonly lies in the narrow streaks between pineland and some swamp, creek, or river. The soil is a blackish sand, producing several kinds of oak (though none exactly like the English), bay, laurel, ash, walnut, sumach-trees (a sort of sycamore), dog-trees (covered in spring with large white flowers), and many hickory-trees, which bear a bad kind of walnut. In the moistest part of this land some persimmon-trees grow (which bear a sort of yellow, clear luscious plum), and a few mulberry- and cherry-trees. The common wild grapes are of two sorts, both red. The fox-grape grows two or three only on a stalk, is thick-skinned, large-stoned, of a harsh taste, and of the size of a small Kentish cherry. The cluster-grape is of a harsh taste too, and about the size of a white currant.
- This land requires much labour to clear; but when it is cleared it will bear any grain for three, four or sometimes five years, without laying any manure upon it. An acre of it generally bears ten bushels of Indian corn, besides five of pease, in a year; so that this at present is justly esteemed the most valuable land in the province.
- A swamp is any low, watery place which is covered with trees or canes. They are here of three sorts’ cypress, river, and cane swamps. Cypress-swamps are mostly large ponds, in and round which cypresses grow. Most river-swamps are overflown every tide by the river which runs through or near them. If they are drained, they would produce good rice; as would the cane swamps also; which in the meantime are the best feeding for sorts of cattle.
- The marshes are of two sorts: soft marsh, which is all a quagmire, and absolutely good for nothing; and hard marsh, which is a firm but barren sand, bearing only sour rushes. Marshes of both sorts abound on the sea islands, which are very numerous, and contain all sorts of land. And upon these chiefly, near creeks and runs of water, juniper-trees and cedars grow.
- Savannah stands on a flat bluff (so they term any highland hanging over a creek or river), which rises forty-five perpendicular from the river, and commands it several miles both upward and downward. The soil is a white sand for above a mile in breadth, south-east and north-west. Beyond this, eastward, is a river-swamp; westward a small wood, in which was the old Indian town. On the other side of the river is a marshy island, covered with large trees. South-west of the town is a large pine-barren, which extends backward to a branch of the Alatamahaw river.*(Whitefield’s Journal -another man of religion in Georgia at this time – stated St Simon’s – “of which Frederica was the chief town” boasts the best, deepest, and safest harbour on the American coast below the Chesapeake).
- St. Simons Island, having on the south-east the Gulf of Florida on the other sides branches of the Alatamahaw, is about one hundred miles south of Savannah, and extends in length about twenty, in breadth from two to five miles. On the west side of it, on a low bluff, stands Frederica, having woods to the north and south; to the east,partly woods, partly savannahs, and partly marshes. The soil is mostly a blackish sand. There is not much pine-land on the island; the greatest part being oak-land, intermixed with many savannahs and old Spanish or Indian Fields.
- On the sea-point, about five miles south-east of the town, is the fort where the soldiers are stationed. But the storehouse in Frederica better deserves that name; being encompassed with regular ramparts of earth, and a palisaded ditch, and mounted with cannon, which entirely command the river.
- About twenty miles north-west from St. Simon’s is Drien, the settlement of the Scotch Highlanders, a mile from Fort King George, which was built about seventeen and abandoned about eleven years since. The town The town was called New Inverness lies on the mainland, close to a branch of the Alatamahaw, on a bluff about thirty feet above the river, having woods on all sides. The soil is a blackish sand. They built at first many scattered huts; but last spring (1736) expecting the Spaniards, They built themselves a large fort, and all retired with walls of it.
- Augusta, distant from Savannah one hundred and fifty miles, and five from old Savannah Town, is designed to stand in an old Indian field, on a bluff about thirty feet high. A small fort of wooden piles was built there in 1737; but no house was then built, nor any more ground cleared, then Mr. Lacy and his men found so.
- Old Ebenezer, where the Salzburghers settled at first, lies twenty-five miles west of Savannah. A small creek runs by the town, down to the river, and many brooks run between the little hills; but the soil is hungry, barren sand; and upon any sudden shower the brooks rise several feet perpendicular, and over flow what-ever is near them. Since the Saltzburghers removed, two English families have been placed there; but these, too, say that the land is good for nothing; and that the creek is of little use; it being by water twenty miles to the river, and the water generally so low in the summer-time that a boat cannot come within six or seven miles of the town.
- New Ebenezer, to which the Saltzburghers removed in March 1736, lies six miles eastward from the old, on a high bluff, near the Savannah river. Here are some tracts of fruitful land, though the greatest part of that adjoining to the town is pine-barren. The huts, sixty in number, are neatly and regularly built; the little piece of ground allotted to each for a garden is everywhere put to the best use, no spot being left unplanted. Nay, even one of the main streets, being one more than was as yet wanted, bore them this year a crop of Indian corn.
- About ten miles east of this, on a creek, three miles from the river, was the village of Abercorn. Ten families settled here in 1733, but it is now without inhabitant. Four miles below the mouth of Abercorn Creek is Joseph’s Town, the settlement of two Scotch gentlemen. A mile below was Sir Francis Bathursts plantation; and a quarter of a mile from this Walter Augustine’s settlement. But both these are left without inhabitant.
- A mile below this is Captain Williams’ plantation; a mile from thence Mrs. Matthews’ (late Musgrove), commonly known by the name of the Cowpen; adjoining to which is the land belonging to Captain Watson, on which is an unfinished house, swiftly running to ruin. A mile from this is Irene, a house built or an Indian school, in the year 1736. It stands on a small round hill, in a little piece of fruitful ground, given by the Indians to Mr Ingham. The Indian town is within a furlong of it.
- Five miles south-west of Savannah, on a small rise, stands the village of Highgate. It has pine-land on three sides, and a swamp on the fourth. Twelve families were placed here in 1733. nine whereof remain there. A mile eastward of this is Hampstead, settled with twelve families also, a little before Highgate, five of which are still remaining.
- Six miles south-east of Savannah is Thurderbolt. Three families are settled here, near a small, ruinous fort. Four miles south of this is the island of Skidoway; on the north-east point whereof ten families were placed in 1734 (a small fort was built here likewise), but nine of them are either dead or removed to other places. A small creed divides the inlet, the lighthouse is built. Ten families were settled here in 1734; but they are part dead, and part removed, so that the island is now again without any fixed inhabitant.
- Twelve miles southward from Savannah, by land, is Mr. Houstoun’s plantation; and forty or fifty miles from him, up the Ogeechy river, that where Mr. Stirling for some time lived. Fort Argyle stands twenty miles from this, on a high bluff, by the river Ogeechy. It is a small, square, wooden fort, musket proof. Ten freeholders sere settled near it; but eight of them are gone, and the land they had cleared, lying waste, will, in a few years, be as it was before.
- The southernmost settlement in Georgia is Fort St. Andrew. It stands fifty miles south of Frederica, on the south-west side of Cumberland Island, upon a high neck of land, which commands the river both ways. The walls are of wood, filled up with earth, round which are a ditch and palisade.
- It is hard to pick out any consistent account of the Georgian Indians from the contradictory relations of their traders. The following is extracted, partly from those wherein all, or the generality of them, agree; partly from the relations of such as have been occasionally amongst them, and have no interest in making them better of worse than they are.
- Of the Georgian Indians in general it may be observed that they are not so properly nations as tribes or clans, who have wandered thither at different times–perhaps expelled their native countries by stronger tribes–but how or when they cannot tell, being none of them able to give any rational account of themselves. They are inured to hardships of all kinds, and surprisingly patient of pain. But as they have no letters, so they have no religion, no laws, no civil government. Nor have they any kings or princes, properly speaking; their meikos, or headmen, having no power either to command or punish, no man obeying them and [any?] further than he pleases. So that every one doeth what is right in his own eyes; and if it appears wrong to his neighbour, the person aggrieved usually steals on the other unawares, and shoots him, scalps him, or cuts off his ears, having only two short rules of proceedings–to do what he will, and what he can.
- They are likewise all, except perhaps the Choctaws, gluttons, drunkards, thieves, dissemblers, liars. They are implacable, unmerciful; murderers of fathers, murderers of mothers, murderers of their own children–it being a common thing for a son to shoot his father or mother because they are old and past labour, and for a woman either to procure abortion, or to throw her child into the next river, because she will go with her husband to war. Indeed, husbands, strictly speaking, they have none. Whoredom they account no crime and few instances appear of a young Indian woman’s refusing any one. Nor have they any fixed punishment for adultery; only if the husband take his wife with another man, he will do what he can to both, unless speedily pacified by the present of a gun or a blanket.
- The Choctaws only have some appearance of an entire nation, possessing a large extent of land, eight or nine hundred miles west of Savannah, and many well-inhabited towns. They are said to have six thousand fighting men, united under one head. At present they are in league with the French who have sent some priests among them, by whom (if one may credit the Choctaw traders) ten or twelve have been baptized.
- Next to these, to the north-east are the Chicasaws. Their country is flat, full of meadows, springs, and rivers. In their fields, though six or seven hundred miles from the sea, are found sea-shells in great numbers. They have about nine hundred fighting men, ten towns, and one mieko, at least, in every one. They are eminently gluttons, eating, drinking, and smoking all day, and almost all night. They are extremely indolent and lazy except in war; then they are the most indefatigable and the most valiant of all the Indians. But they are equally cruel with the rest, torturing and burning all their prisoners, whether Indian or European.
- East of them in the latitude of 35 and 36, about three or four hundred miles from Savannah, lie the Cherokees. Their country is very mountainous, fruitful, and pleasant. They have fifty-two towns, and above three thousand fighting men. In each town are three or more headmen, who keep up a sort of shadow of government, having power to set the rest to work, and to punish such as will not join in the common labour. They are civil to strangers, and will do anything for them, for pay, being always willing;, for a small piece of money, to carry a message for fifty or sixty miles, and, if required, a heavy burden too; but they are equally cruel to prisoners with the Chicasaws, through not equally valiant. They are seldom intemperate in drinking but when they can be so on free cost. Otherwise, love of drink yields to covetousness a vice scarcely to be found in any Indian but a Cherokee.
- The Uchees have only one small town left (near two hundred miles from Savannah) and about forty fighting men. The Creeks have been many times on the point of cutting them off. They are indeed hated by most, and despised by all the other nations, as well for their cowardice, as their superlative diligence in thieving, and for out-lying all the Indians upon the continent.
- The Creek Indians are about four hundred miles from Savannah. They are said to be bounded on the west by the Choctaws, to the north, by the Chicasaws, to the east by the Cherokees, and to the south by the Altamahaw river. They have many towns, a plain, well-watered country, and fifteen hundred fighting men. they have often three or four meikos in a town; but without so much as the shadow of authority, only to give advise, which every one is as liberty to take or leave. But age and reputation for valour and wisdom have given Chicali, The Creek Indians are now largely A Christian people made so by the labours of the Methodist ministers. a meiko of the Coweta-Town, a more than ordinary influence over the nation; though not even the show of regal power. Yet neither age, wisdom, nor reputation can restrain him from drunkenness. Indeed, all the Creeks, have been most conversant with whites European vices. They are more exquisite dissemblers than the rest of their countrymen. They know not what friendship or gratitude means. They show no inclination to learn anything, but least of all Christianity; being full as opinionated of their own parts and wisdom as either modern Chinese or ancient Romans.
Wesley served The Oglethorpe Trustees for Georgia as a religious appointee from the fall of 1735 until he left under duress in the winter of 1738. His mission to convert the Indians to Christianity was largely unfulfilled, yet, his education was extensive for his stay in Georgia.
|↑1||Georgia was the only strip on the eastern coast of America not already parcelled out; it was a wilderness over which England held only a nominal jurisdiction.|
|↑2||The American suffered in these swamps and sandy deserts, called Pine-barrens, in the War of Independence.|
|↑3||The town was called New Inverness|
|↑4||The Creek Indians are now largely A Christian people made so by the labours of the Methodist ministers.|