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Diary of Rachel Wilmer, Erie Canal, 1834

Diary of Rachel Wilmer

Diary of Rachel Wilmer

New York State Library, NYSL_rachel_wilmer_diary
 
Document Description
Diary written by a woman named Rachel Wilmer, who traveled the Erie Canal in 1834. Like many others, Rachel toured the Canal to see the marvelous sights, but sometimes danger lurked. Sometimes people caught diseases or had accidents while traveling and working on the Canal.
 
Transcription
one Passenger was taken with the Cholera and left on the road I was taken very sick on the way but affraid thay would think it the Cho. - I did not complain but with the assistance of some opium I got better. 14 of Aug. we arrived at about 4 o'clock and I thank our heavenly father I am better 15 Our Old Friend D.  called finding the Cholera bad at Buffalo he hurried on 17 of Au. Bid adieu to our Relatives at Batavia adn took stage for the City Rochester incompany with a Gentleman who was fine looking and extremely attentive offered Anna an Indian bag and intends on to New York. We arrived at Roches. before 6 went immediately on board boat and now on the canal moving slowly but delightfully on Retired and had a tolerably nights rest. Tuesday awoke lying at Palini Now about 12 at a town call Lion where we passed in the night before. In this boat the Ceres we often stop so I amuse myself fishing but oh! how heavily time goes in advancing towards home. Wednes. The Gentlemen amuse themselves going gunner here there is an advantage in this manner of travelling. We have much amusement with the maids They cordially hate each other. We are now at the salt works and have got a piece in the crude state. Now at Syracuse a large and thriving town stopped to wiegh the boat which was curious Edwin gone a shopping fruit.
 
 
Questions
1. What two dangerous things does Rachel mention in the passages of her diary quoted above?
2. Why did Rachel's boat have to wait outside Utica?
3. Why was Rachel's fellow passenger left on the road?
 
Resources
The Cholera epidemic of 1832 in Rochester by Richard T. Halsey (http://www.rootsweb.com/~nymonroe/vr/cholera.htm)
 

 

About this Activity

 

Lesson Topic:

 
Historical Context
Cholera was a terrible disease that often killed its victims. Cholera spread up and down the Canal in 1832 and again in 1834, the year Rachel Wilmer was touring with her friends. Now we know that people get cholera from flies and other insects that transmit the disease from contact with infected human waste. What did canallers do when they needed to use the bathroom? They used a bucket or pot, and dumped it over the side of the boat into the Canal. This helped to spread the sickness up and down the Canal.

However, most people thought that cholera was spread through the air, although they weren't sure how. If you walked through a canal town like Buffalo in 1834, you might see large pieces of meat rotting on poles and barrels of burning tar. People believed that these things helped clear the air of cholera.