Thursday, August 14, 2008

News from 1794

by Joyce Tremel

I spent this past Saturday evening and part of Sunday at the Depreciation Lands Museum gathering information for a magazine article I'm writing. (For anyone who doesn't know, the Depreciation Lands were set aside by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania way back in 1783 to compensate Revolutionary War veterans because currency had depreciated too much.) It's one of those places that I pass all the time, but never stopped until this weekend. I am so glad I did. Every Sunday afternoon, volunteers go back in time and recreate what life was like in the late 18th century.

Anyway, on Sunday there was a little boy wearing colonial attire who was passing out copies of the "Pittsburgh Gazette" dated August 9, 1794. I'm not sure if these are real news items from the actual Gazette, but I got a kick out of reading them. I think you will too. Here are some interesting tidbits:
"On Saturday last, Thomas Dening was executed on the commons of this place, pursuant to his sentence, for the murder of Catherine Worthington."

"Runaway last night my wife Bridget Coole. She is a tight neat body, and has lost one leg. She was seen riding behind the Priest of the parish, through Fermony, and as we was never married, I will pay no debt that she does not contracts. She lisps with one tooth, and is of no use but to the owner. /s/Phelim Coole."
Bridget sounds like a winner, doesn't she? But I guess old Phelim does too.
"Hemp wanted by Margaret Ross. Pittsburgh."
"We hear from Bellprae, that 2 Indians took Major Nathan Goodall on the 1st instant, who was carting rails but a short distance from the house, at the lower garrison. It is supposed they have seen where he unloaded, and secreted themselves close by, as they found his team partly turned round, and his whip lay beside the cattle."
"Saturday morning last, the 23rd inst. a duel was fought at Legionville between Mr. Jenifer and Mr. Gassaway, officers in the army. It is with regret we mention, that it terminated in the death of the latter."

"Notice. Whereas my wife has left my bed and board without the least provocation, therefore I forewarn all persons from trusting or harbouring her upon my account, as I am determined not to pay any debts of her contracting. /s/ Henry Swager."

"A disagreement having taken place between me and my wife Sarah Kear. I hereby forwarn all persons from trusting her on my account as I am determined not to pay any debts of her contracting. /s/ George Kear."
Anyone see a trend here?

Here's a good one:
"Stop a villain. Ten dollars reward will be paid to any person for delivery of the body of Jacob Endrews in the jail of Allegheny County. He is about 22 years of age, light curly hair, tied, slender made, pock marked, much of a coxcomb, fond of gambling, and when intoxicated, very quarrelsome, he is a sadler by trade, which he learnt with Daniel Overaker, in Winchester, and his parents live within four miles of that place. As he has eloped from his bail it is hoped every honest man will examine strictly such as may answer this description, together will his apparel, which was a blue coat and white hat. /s/ Solomon Cook, Pittsburgh."
"Smith & Shiras have purchased the Brewery at the point, in Pittsburgh, and will carry on brewing business."

"Six pence reward. Ranaway for John Gibson, living in Pittsburgh (after a hearing before Adamson Tannehill Esq. who ordered him home) an apprentice lad named Abner Evans, 5'4 or 5" high, dark complexion, very much addicted to lying and idleness. /s/ John Gibson, Pittsburgh."
And here's one from a wife:
"Whereas my husband William Wilson advertised me in the Pittsburgh Gazette, setting forth, that I Elizabeth Wilson had behaved myself in an unbecoming manner, and left his bed and board, I declare it is false, that he had neither of them, at the time he ran away from the constable, and left me with a child at my breast, without a thing to subsist upon. I hope therefore that no justice of the peace will hear his false tale, that he has and will be able to invent against me; as I declare I am afraid that he will take my life which he has often threatened. I can assure the public that he is a very bad man and a noted liar and has certified the same to Margaret Lounsdale. /s/ Elizabeth Wilson, St. Clair twp."
"A cow came to the plantation of John Buchanan who now lives on Grant's Hill, one mile from Pittsburgh. Owner desired to come, prove property, pay charges and take her away."

Don't you wish the newspapers were still written like this? I'd much rather read about someone's missing cows or pigs, an Indian attack, or a husband/wife tiff than another drive-by shooting or the upcoming election. How about you? Do you wish you could turn back time or do you prefer the news of today?


Annette said...

What fun, Joyce!

As someone who has done considerable camping eighteenth-century-style, I can tell you the time period has its charm. It also had dirt floors, smokey fires to cook over, heat, bugs, lousy sewage systems, and Indian attacks to name just a few. What it DIDN'T have was air conditioning, microwaves, hot and cold running water, or flush toilets.

It's a great place to visit, but I definitely would NOT want to live there.

JennieB said...

Some great fodder for a historical mystery here, though!

No, I don't want to go back. No AC and no indoor plumbing is a no-go for me.

Wilfred Bereswill said...

Seems like a lot of loose women back then. Well at least according to thier husbands. I have gone back in certain ways. It's called China.

Good stuff here, Joyce.

Joyce said...

I could tolerate spending a day in the 18th century, but that's about it. I won't even go camping. I won't even stay in a cabin that doesn't have its own bathroom.

Someday I might try a historical mystery when I finish writing the other hundred or so stories that are stuck in my head.

And Will, did you ever think that maybe the husbands were just jerks?

Wilfred Bereswill said...

There's a term we use in Environmental Auditing; "Reportedly, the women were..."

It's rare that you can get to the truth of a matter by listening to one side of the argument. Heck, it's just as hard when listening to both sides.

If you've ever had more than one kid at home and something breaks, you understand.

Joyce said...

With my two kids, it was just like in the Family Circus cartoon: "Nobody" did it.