DEPARTURE FROM DETROIT.
It was on a dark, rainy evening in the month of September, 1830, that we went on board the steamer “Henry Clay,” to take passage for Green Bay. All our friends in Detroit had congratulated us upon our good fortune in being spared the voyage in one of the little schooners which at this time afforded the ordinary means of communication with the few and distant settlements on Lakes Huron and Michigan.
Each one had some experience to relate of his own or Of his friends’ mischances in these precarious journeys—long detentions on the St. Clair flats—furious head-winds off Thunder Bay, or interminable Calms at Mackinac or the Manitous. That which most enhanced our sense of peculiar good luck, was the true story of one of our relatives having left Detroit in the month of June and reached Chicago in the September following, having been actually three months in performing what is sometimes accomplished by even a sail-vessel in four days.
But the certainty of encountering similar misadventures would have weighed little with me. I was now to visit, nay, more, to become a resident of that land which had, for long years, been to me a region of romance. Since the time when, as a child, my highest delight had been in the letters of a dear relative, describing to me his home and mode of life in the “Indian country,” and still later, in his felicitous narration of a tour with General Cass, in 1820, to the sources of the Mississippi—nay, even earlier, in the days when I stood at my teacher’s knee, and spelled out the long word Mich-i-li-mack-i-nac, that distant land, with its vast lakes, its boundless prairies, and its mighty forests, had possessed a wonderful charm for my imagination. Now I was to see it!—it was to be my home!
Our ride to the quay, through the dark by-ways, in a cart, the only vehicle which at that day could navigate the muddy, unpaved streets of Detroit, was a theme for much merriment, and not less so, our descent of the narrow, perpendicular stair-way by which we reached the little apartment called the Ladies’ Cabin. We were highly delighted with the accommodations, which, by comparison, seemed the very climax of comfort and convenience; more especially as the occupants of the cabin consisted, beside myself, of but a lady and two little girls.
Nothing could exceed the pleasantness of our trip for the first twenty-four hours. There were some officers, old friends, among the passengers. We had plenty of books. The gentlemen read aloud occasionally, admired the solitary magnificence of the scenery around us, the primeval woods, or the vast expanse of water unenlivened by a single sail, and then betook themselves to their cigar, or their game of euchre, to while away the hours.
For a time the passage over Thunder Bay was delightful, but, alas! it was not destined, in our favor, to belie its name. A storm came on, fast and furious—what was worse, it was of long duration. The pitching and rolling of the little boat, the closeness, and even the sea-sickness, we bore as became us. They were what we had expected, and were prepared for. But a new feature of discomfort appeared, which almost upset our philosophy.