F. Cuming


From just below Brookes’s, we had a fine view down a reach, about three miles, with Limestone or Maysville in sight at the end of it, and passing the straggling but pleasant village of Madison on the left, Limestone creek, and two gun boats at anchor, we landed there a little before eight o’clock. 

We got a good supper and beds at Mr. S. January’s who keeps an excellent house, and is a polite, well-informed and attentive landlord. 

Next morning, Thursday the 30th July, we walked, accompanied by our host to the scite of a formerly intended glass house, on the bank about three quarters of a mile above the town; which failed of being erected in consequence of the glass blowers who were engaged not having arrived to perform their contract. 

During our walk, we were shewn the scites of no less than three projected towns, on the different properties of Messrs. Martin, Brookes, and Coburn, at any of which, the situations were better than Maysville, both in point of room for building, and communication with the interior of the country.  They however all failed, in favour of Maysville; but those attempts to establish towns on their estates, will serve to give some idea of the ambitious and enterprising spirit which actuates the landholders in this country. 

Maysville is the greatest shipping port on the Ohio, below Pittsburgh, but it is merely such, not being a place of much business itself, but only serving as the principal post for the north eastern part of the state of Kentucky, as Louisville does for the south western.  It has not increased any for several years, and contains only about 60 houses.  It is closely hemmed in by the river hills, over which the most direct road from Philadelphia through Pittsburgh and Chillicothe leads to Lexington, and thence through the state of Tennessee to New Orleans. 

Several vessels of all sizes from four hundred tons downwards, have been built here, but as none are now going forward, I presume the builders did not find that business answerable to their expectations.  It is a post town, the mails from both east and west arriving Wednesdays and Saturdays. Its situation causing it to be much resorted by travelers, that gives an appearance of liveliness and bustle, which might induce a stranger to think it a place of more consequence than it really is. 

. . . Four miles from Maysville, we entered the flourishing town of Washington, which is laid out on a roomy and liberal plan, in three parallel streets, containing only as yet ninety-six houses, mostly large and good ones.  There is here a good stone court-house with a small belfry, a church of brick for the society of Scotch Presbyterians, and another of wood for one of the Anabaptists.  Washington being the capital of Bracken County [Not now, not then; he’s just wrong here], and in the heart of a very rich country, is a thriving town, and will probably continue to be so, notwithstanding it is without the advantage of any navigable river nearer than the Ohio at Maysville.  [General Henry] Lee, a merchant here to whom I had letters of introduction was polite and obliging.  We got an excellent dinner, at Ebert’s tavern; after which we hired two horses through Mr. Lee’s interest, as it is difficult for strangers to procure horses on hire throughout this country. 

…We came to a small post town, called May’s-Lick, containing only eight or ten houses, irregularly scattered on the side of a hill.  We here stopped to feed our horses, and proceeded four miles through a good natural, but indifferently improved country to Clark’s excellent mill on Johnston’s fork of Licking, which is a fine mill stream, and falls into the Licking river, several miles lower down.  The road on each side of the fork is very bad, the hills being extremely steep. 

After passing Clark’s mill, we found the country gradually worse cultivated, less inhabited, and at last a continuation of barren hills, bearing very little besides wild pennyroyal, with which the air is very strongly perfumed, and a few stunted shrubs and trees, there being nothing to promote vegetation, but gravel and loose stones of every variety – marble, limestone, flint, freestone, and granate, among which the limestone is most predominant.  The road also was very bad for the three of four miles next to the Blue salt licks on Licking river, which is eight miles from Clark’s mill.  


These are brief excerpts from F. Cuming’s Sketches of a Tour to the Western Country, published in Pittsburgh in 1810, on his trip, from 1807 to 1809. This section is from 1807. You can find the entire work on line at the Library of Congress’ American Memory Website, here.  It’s in the Travel Narratives Collection.