Whilst on the banks of Lake Erie, having heard a great deal of conversation about the “lake fever,” I made several inquiries from the inhabitants on that subject, the result of which confirmed me in the opinion, that the shores of the lakes are quite as healthy as any other part of the country, and that here, as elsewhere, the disease arises from stagnant pools, swamps, and masses of decayed animal and vegetable matter, which are allowed to remain and accumulate in the vicinity of settlements. When at New York, I met an old and wealthy farmer, who was himself, although eighty years of age, in the enjoyment of rude health. He informed me that he had resided in Canada, on the shores of Lake Erie, for the last fifty years, and that neither he nor any one of his family had ever been afflicted with fever of any description. The district in which he lived, was entirely free from local nuisances, and the inhabitants he represented as being as healthy as any in the United States.
My observations, so far, lead me to conclude, that this climate agrees fully as well with Europeans as with the natives, indeed that the susceptibility to fever and ague is greater in the natives than in Europeans of good habits. The cause I conceive to be this: the early settlers had to encounter swamps of the most pestilential description, and dense forests through which the sun’s rays had never penetrated, and which industry and cultivation have since made in a great measure to disappear. They notoriously suffered much from the ravages of malaria, and such as survived the baleful effects of this disease, escaped with impaired constitutions. Now this susceptibility to intermittent fever, appears to me to have been transmitted to their descendants, and to act as the predisposing cause. I have seen English and Irish people who have been in the country upwards of thirty years, who look just as you would expect to find persons of their age at home.
There are situations evidently unhealthy, such as river bottoms, and the vicinity of creeks. The soil in those situations is alluvial, and its extreme fertility often induces unfortunate people to reside in them. The appearance of those persons in general is truly wretched.
The women here, although they live as long as those in the old country, yet they fade much sooner, and, with few exceptions, have bad teeth.
Having decided on visiting New Harmony, in Indiana, where our friend B—— had been for some time enjoying the delights of sylvan life, and the refinements of backwoods-society, T—— and I purchased a horse, and Dearborne, a species of light waggon used in this country for travelling. We furnished ourselves with a small axe, hunting knives, and all things necessary for encamping when occasion required, and so set out about the beginning of September.