Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Coming To Texas

 I have no idea who this person is but I thought his story on coming to Texas was interesting.

From the Diary of Thomas J. Pilgrim
In the fall of 1828, 1 started from the western part of the state of New York for Texas. I was in a company with 60 other men, women and children. We were led by Elias R. Wightman, who had lived for about 3 years there and was well fitted to be the leader. We traveled in wagon to Olean Point, on the head waters of the Alleghany River. There we built a raft in two pieces. In it we placed our baggage and pushed off to drift with the current. The first day we had no trouble, but by night we were cold and wet. We sought shelter in an Indian village on the north bank of the stream. The old chief seemed moved with pity at our condition, for the weather was very bad. He took us to a cabin about 20 feet square, with a good floor and a fireplace. The floor was covered with peas and beans in the shuck, which he showed us could be scraped up into one corner and a fire made in the fireplace. Truly grateful for his kindness, we soon had a good fire and a plain but tasty meal and all slept soundly. The next day being Sunday, we remained and spent it in such devotional exercises as circumstances would permit. Monday morning we again started on our voyage, having taken on board a pilot to go with us as far as Pittsburgh. About noon we heard a roaring ahead that sounded like a waterfall, but we learned that it came from a dam built across the stream. On one side was a mill. On the other a narrow space was left, through which a gentle current flowed and where the boats or rafts could pass safely. But our pilot kept in the center of the current, and we passed over a fall about 4 feet high. Everyone was drenched with water.
We all fell to dipping out water with such vessels as we could find and were soon on our way again. Before night we overtook a raft of pine plank and climbed on it. When we reached Pittsburgh, we discharged our pilot who had caused us much trouble and done us little good. At Pittsburgh we had intended to take a steamer, but finding none ready to leave, we continued on our raft to Cincinnati. We remained there for several days, and I bought a set of Spanish books and began to study the language. Soon we took passages on a steamer for New Orleans and in due time reached that city. We remained there about two weeks, waiting for a ship. At length we found a little vessel from Maine, run by just three men and only one of these was very capable. The captain offered either to sell us the vessel for five hundred dollars or to take us to Texas for that amount. We accepted the latter offer and provided ourselves suitably for the voyage. Before long we were drifting down the Mississippi in perfect calm, at the mercy of the current. This calm continued for many days, until we were far out of sight of land. We were now on the Gulf, drifting about we knew not where, and there was not enough breeze to move the vessel. Finally the wind rose and blew a gale straight ahead. Soon all on board were seasick except the crew and me and many wished that they had never started. For two days the gale continued, and then again there was a perfect calm. And thus gale and calm succeeded each other until we found ourselves off the entrance to Matagorda Bay. The wind was blowing directly out of the pass, and there was little chance of being able to enter, but we resolved to try. Of all those on board, but the crew, I was the only one who knew how to sail a vessel, and the work falling on me was great. Besides we were nearly out of food. For several days we had only one-half pint each of water daily. Part of the time I drank none of mine, giving it to the children. It was plain that we must do everything possible to make harbor soon. For 24 hours we beat against wind and current, but all in vain. We actually lost 3 miles. Finally we ran down to Aransas and entered the Bay safely. Soon all was landed. Fires were made and water was secured. The women did some badly needed washing of clothes. Twelve of the men took their rifles and went in search of game, leaving only the captain, the mate and myself behind.
The vessel was anchored about 200 yards from shore. We had been there only about an hour when we saw several canoes coming down the bay with Indians. These we knew to be Karankawas, who were said to be cannibals. As there wasnly one old musket on board, we feared for the safety of the women and children. The Indians landed and went in the direction of the women. The mate and I jumped into our little boat. He took the oars, and I took the old musket and we rowed toward the Indians, but kept between them and the women. We drew near the Indians and I kept the musket pointed toward the chief, who motioned for me not to fire and made signs of friendship. This position we kept for some time, for we were hoping that the hunters would soon return. They did so presently and we then felt safe. The women were taken on board first and then the men. Lastly, a few Indians were allowed to come. They showed no unfriendliness. Their canoes were well stored with fish, all neatly dressed. They traded to us as many fish as we needed and then left. We were truly glad to have escaped so well. After staying here for several days and supplying ourselves with water and such food as we could get, we again set sail. The wind was now fair and we shaped our course off Pass Caballo. The Captain gave me the helm and went to his berth for sleep. In a few minutes the wind had died down and it was calm. I thought our chance for landing was small and so told Mr. Wightman. I told him I had charge of the vessel, and if he thought best I would beach her, and we would make our way as best we could by land. He said that would never do, for we were more than a hundred miles from any white settlement. We would have no means of travel by land, and the country was full of hostile Indians. Our only safety was in staying with the vessel.
I awoke the captain, who at once saw our danger. We decided to try to make it up the pass. The mate and I went ahead in the boat and sounded it. Then taking a long rope, we guided our vessel into the bay. Soon we were within 2 miles of Matagorda, which then contained two families. The next day Mr. Wightman went to the settlement. He returned with the present of a Christmas dinner, which consisted of some hominy and fresh milk. We promptly ate it. The next day, we landed having been 22 days from New Orleans. Some went to work at once to build homes on the spot. Five young men started up the country. We were told it was 22 miles to a settlement and as we had been so long on board a ship, we thought it would be easy to walk this distance. We started without a blanket or over garment and with only three little biscuits. This was the last of December, and the country was nearly covered with water. The only road was a dim trail through the high grass. About noon the rain began to fall in torrents, and the wind blew strong from the north. The water grew deeper and night was coming, with no sign of a settlement. Three of the men declared they would go no farther, I told them that if they stayed there it meant certain death, but they said if life depended on it they could go no farther. Near us was an old liveoak, which had fallen and lain there for ages. On the underside of its trunk we built a fire, which we kept burning through the night. Having enough tall grass to raise us above the water, we laid down and rested quite well, in spite of the rain and wind. In the morning we arose and started out in the rain, wind and water. We had gone only about a mile when we heard the crowing of chickens. Soon we struck a plain path and were shortly at the home of Daniel Rawls. here we found plenty of food, for which no charge was made. The rain continued to fall and in the evening of the second day, we saw a miserable looking object coming. He was one of our number whom we had left behind. He had left with another, from whom he had become separated on the way. Two horses were soon ready to go and hunt for him. Mr. Rawls riding one horse and I the other. When darkness overtook us we entered a thicket and staked out our horses. By breaking off limbs of bushes and covering them with long moss, we made a bed above the water, on which we slept.
In the morning we continued our way to Matagorda, only to find that the lost man had not returned. Hearing nothing of him, we retraced our steps and found that in our absence he had come in. Here we all remained until the weather cleared up, when we separated and left. The others went eastward to the Brazos, I on foot and alone, made my way north to San Felipe, about 60 miles distant.


  1. Wish stuff like this would have been included in our Texas History lessons while I was in public schools . Makes History much more interesting than the dull crap I got way back when.

    All we were taught was that Texas settlers were killed by some Mexicans led by Santa Anna at the Alamo.

    The majority of history teachers I had were sports coaches just filling in time till sports practice time :-(

  2. You know Ben,like you said, if the schools relied more on printing the first hand accounts of what went on back then.Then printing what someone else has read & then put it in their own words like they really knew what it was like. It would had been a lot better reading for me.