Monday, November 5, 2012

Charles Lodwick Describes Manhattan, May 20, 1692 (Part 1)

Mr. Charles Lodwick, his acct. of New York, in a Letter
to his Uncle, Mr. Francis Lodwick, and Mr. Hooker,

Members of ye Royal Society, dated from New York, May

20, 1692. Read Sept. 5, A. D. 1692, and read before the

Royal Society, Nov. 26, 1713.


Hon. Gentlemen :


I have sufficient reasons to beg your pardons for my
neglect; it is now full 4 years since I rec'd your commands

to give you what [acct.] I was capable, of the Constitution
of this Country, which indeed had been much sooner

obeyed, had not the Confusion and Disturbance here among
ourselves wholly impeded even our common Affairs, that for

almost 3 years, we had enough to do to exercise all
our brains to secure our ps'ons, and that little we had,

from the Cruelty and Tyranny of an ungovernable mobb ;
which by the peculiar mercy of God, and the extended Fa-

vor of our Prince, we are in part released from.

I have endeavor'd to collect the Opinions of our gravest

Sages here, where my young experience would not lett me
conclude, and tho' it be far from what it ought, for here

Makers of ships are the chiefest Mathematicians, and the Na-
tive Geographers, with such tools you must not expect a

good Fabric, especially by the hands of so unskillfull a work-
man. But I shall wholly forbear makeing any farther ex-

cuses for the great faults and many impertinencies you will
find ; and since it is only design'd for the private diver-

sions, I doubt not but you will read, and pardon, and in full
assurance of your Generosities, I take leave to subscribe my-

self, gentlemen,

Ye most obedient, humble serv't,


New York, 20th May, 1692.

The Citty New York lies in America, in the Lat of 40
Degr: 40 Min: North, on an Island, distant from the open

Sea about 7 leagues northward, scituated between 2 Riv-
ers, one called Hudson's river, running North by East,

navigable by great ships, near 40 leagues up ; the other
River runs East by North nearest, and is made by Long

Island, and in a passage to the Sea betwixt that and the main
Land. This Island of New York was formerly called by ye

Natives, Manhattens, is abt 5 leagues in extent, and is an
Island by a runn of water fordable att Low water between

the 2 forementioned rivers ; before the Town is an excellent
Harbor, Land-Lokt on all sides; the country woody, but

very pleasant. Our chiefest unhappyness here is too
great a mixture of nations, and English is least part ; ye

French Protestants have in the late King's reign resorted
hither in great numbers proportionably to the other nation's

inhabitants. Ye Dutch, generally the most frugall and
laborious, and consequently the richest ; whereas most of

ye English are the contrary, especially the trading part.
As to Religion, we run so high into all Opinions, that here

is, (I fear,) but little reall ; and how justly might the Right-
eous God pour down his impending Judgments on us ; yet

God hath blest us with a healthy Climate, a fruitful Soil,
plenty of all sorts of provisions needful for the support of

Mankind. We are the chief granary to most of the West
India islands. Boston was formerly famous for excellent

Wheat, whereas now the whole Massatusetts colony can
scarce produce one hundred Bushells, and peas the same ;

it grows up as fair as any can do, and when it begins to

ear, black spotts abt the middle of the stalk, which hinders
the sap ascending, the ear withers and produces nothing

but chaff. None of our wise men here can assign any
natural reason for this, when but just out of the Massatu-

setts, in Conecticut colony, grows as fair corn as any in
America. A small worm does often destroy our peas here

while they grow, tho' seldom any other grain. It is [in] my
Opinion wholly uncertain if not improbable, that this Main

of America should have overflowed since the Deluge, by
reason of the extrea high land generally, nor have I been

able to observe any signs of a second Deluvium ; many
Shells of Oysters and other shell fish are found upon high

hills as well as valleys, and sometimes two or three foot
within ye Earth, but are supposed to have been brought

there by ye Natives, the fish having served them for food, 

and ye shells rotting, serve for dung to thier land, which is
common in these parts now among ye Christians.

Most sorts of European Animalls thrive here very well,

tho' the Country before the discovery was not known to have
produced any of those usual sorts of Beasts, as horses, cows,

sheep, hoggs, or goats ; Sheep would increase here and do
very much, — English or clover grass agreeing very well

with the land, yet the stature of the cattle seem rather to
decrease here, which might doubtless in a great measure

be helpt by care and good husbandry ; An Ox shall ordi-
narily wiegh here six hundred wieght, rarely one thousand ;

whither it be occasioned by the use of too young bulls, one
can scarce keep a bull till 2 years old without cutting,

they grow so fierce and mischievous, or whither the pier-
cing heat and sometimes great drought in the summer, may

not be instrumental to hinder thier growth, besides here is
a mischievous insect call'd a musqueta, or small little fly,

which extreamly vexes the cattle, and is often observ'd to
make them grow lean, hindering thier feeding.

We are not so careful here, nither, of the breed of horses

as in Europe, which without doubt be much mended by in-
dustry ; they commonly turn thier spare horses into the woods,

where they breed and become wild ; and as they have occa-
sion they catch up the colts, and break them for thier use ; all

sorts of cattle are now in aboundance and increase dayly ;
a horse is sold from 2 to 6 pound, an ox or cow from 2 to

5 pound, this country money, which is [OCR unreadable] 25 per cent worse
than sterling.

Most fruit trees grow here and thrive, especially Apples,

Pears, Cherries and Peaches, &c. Of the last the country
abounds of most sorts usual in England ; they grow com-

monly along ye high ways, and in such quantity that they
become fruit to ye hoggs ; Apricocks are very rare, they not

being able so well to endure our sharp frosts as the others
do, and no doubt all vegetables will grow here if not of

too tender a root ; all garden herbs are here in aboundance,
and will grow in half the time they do in England, tho'

our Spring beginns here not so soon as in England, yet
when it beginns goes on with greater vigour ; we generally

observe most fruits lessen in bigness every year ; a large
bean planted here shall bear a bean scarce half so big as

ye seed was.

Rosemary will not endure our Winter at all ; Artichoak

and Colly flowers will grow, but are very tender, and bear
a fruit no bigger than a good apple.

Those animalls which are the natural product of this coun-

try are Elks, Deer, Bears, Bevers, Otters, Foxes, Racoons,
Maters, Minks, Woodshocks, Waterratts or Musquash, and

Wolves, which latter prove very mischievous to our cattle,
are in aboundance, and are supposed to increase dayly ; here

are also most sorts of birds usual in England, except the
Magpye and house-sparrow, tho' several of differing col-

ours from any in England; the most rare is a small bird we
call a humming bird, which is not so bigg as the first joint

of an ordinary man's little finger, but of a curious change-
able colour ; it has a long bill or trunk as long as its body,

with which it sucks its nourishment from blossoms and
flowers, and is supposed to have no other sustenance ;

where it generates I could never be informed, it being only
visible here in the Summer; we have also the mocking bird,

tho' rare', I never observ'd the nightingales, tho' some
affirm they are here ; we have most sorts of hawks wild ;

they are not yet so genteel to tame any for our use ;
wild pidgeons are here in aboundance ; they breed up the

country some hundreds of miles of from us Northward,
and come flying in great quantity in ye Spring, and pass

to ye Southward, and return to us about the time our corn
is ripe, and settle in ye Trees and on ye corn Lands in

great numbers ; here are several sorts of venemous snakes ;
ye most rare is ye rattle snake, whose poyson is not in

its toungue, but in a small bladder within ye teeth, which
breaks when it bites ; a wound from this snake cause ex-

quisite Torments and raving madness, and has been thought
incurable till ye Natives informed us of an herb call'd

thence snake root, of which there are two sorts, one white,
ye other red ; it grows in many places, and mostly where

these snakes haunt most ; it bears a leaf like this ;
ye other sort like a strawberry ; a piece of this root,

ye white ye best, if taken within an hour or 2 after
ye hurt, and bruised and applyed outwardly to ye wound,

expells presently ye pain, and ye patient is well in a day's
time ; ye Indians make nothing of a bite from these snakes ;

they will not willingly hurt a man or beast, but fly from
them, unless accidentally trod on. I have killed several ;

they have a sort of a scarf that grows on their tails, and is
divided sometimes into 8 or 9 parts, abt a :^ [OCR unreadable] of an inch

broad, which they shedd, (probably with their skinns,) and
being loose makes a noise like a rattle, as they move

their bodyes, from whence they take ye name of Rattle-

The musqueta, a small sort of fly, is also venemous, has

a small body not much bigger than ye head of a pin, 6
long leggs, and a trunk almost ^ [OCR unreadable] of an inch long, by which

it sucks blood from Man and Beast, and wherever it bites,
that part swells immediately itching extreamly, which by

scratching often proves a venemous sore, but if lett alone
it vanishes quickly.

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New York Histrocial Society
Editor's note: Optical character recognition (OCR) was used to photograph the old books and documents at the Historical Society. Some words or characters were unreadable in the scans. Subsitutions have been made by CC based on best judgment of content and text. Spelling was left unchanged.

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