Sunday, August 28, 2011

Letter from Provincetown, MA, Sep 1831

With Hurricane Irene bearing down on the northeast, you will read of a similar occurrence and what it was like on board a fishing vessel in Boston Harbor in 1831 in this letter from Lawrence to his mother.

                                             "Provincetown Harbor      August Sept 13th 1831

"Dear Mother -- It was with the greatest pleasure I received yours dated the 3d Sept from Hartford. I have been waiting along time & expected a host of news but I got but little = How did you get to granby what boat or stage did you go on what did it cost you &c I left Boston August 16th at 3 in the afternoon reached Provincetown about midnight. The next two days we took in stores for the fishing Season = On Saturday the 28th we bought our Oil Clothes &c. I bought a Suit of Oil Clothes a plate Spoon Knife & Fork - After fitting out we all Signed the Shipping paper & hauled out into the Harbour where we lay over Sunday - This place is one of the greatest curiosities I have Seen -- There is nothing but Sand, Wind Mills Salt works Bowers for drying fish & Fishing Craft -- I have counted 71 wind mills from the wharf & most of them in operations -- the whole place is one heap of Sand -- They canot Step out the door without Sinking in nearly over Shoe & horses Sink nearly half knee dep in main Street -- After leaving the Harbour we went out a few miles from the cape caught 36 wash bbls the first week the next about 30 - I caught a bbl Barrel in 3 or 4 hours one day & the Second day after that another = Fishing is something like hunting Some days we find plenty of Fish have to work all day Some times till in the evening but more than half the time we have nothing to do - We generally have [Suehy?] or breakfast before daylight & one at out [and are at] fishing posts by day break Our principal food is Curley bread, Chowder, Dough Nuts - Furniture Bloaters, White Cakes, Rice Beans Pilot-brad & Salt beuf & [ ? ] the worst kind of food for a Dyspeptic - - I was Sea Sick Several times so as to vomit a little but it has done no good I have been half froze every time I am Sick have had no appetite Stomach seems constantly foul Have felt very week & Stupid almost the whole time have been very Costive had to Take a good deal of Physic - Expected when I cam abord it would right the averse - It is now three weeks Since I cam abord & I am not as well as I was then - The other young man who is unwell has been affected in the same way Says he has been growing weak ever Since come on bourd - The food is the worst kind - I have bought Some Rye meal am now living principally on Course Bread -- Think I shal not Stay on board loner than the first of October do not know where to go then perhaps to New Haven -- I forgot to day we Shall not probabaly go to the bay of Shiloe [?] that we have been only 20 = or 30 miles from Provincetown have been in the Harbour once a week = Last Wednesday & Thursday lay in the Harbour during the Storm which lasted two days it blew a real gale vessels came in with reefed gibs & fore sails the waves rooled into the Harbour So as to make the vessel role & pitch dreadfully = Sometimes the waves would brak over Deck & come into the Cabin - If we shut the doors the Smoke would not Suffer us to Stay in the Cabin - So we left the Doors open all turned in & covered up to try to keep warm = we have to take turns in Cooking Each one Cooks one day in Eight = One of our men is now Sick on Shore with a Diarhrea I think The Dyspeptic from Boston Says he has been growing week ever Since he cam one Board & cannot Stand it much longer = He has been trying the Graham System of living entirely on vegitables & bathing daily & recommends it very highly for dyspeptics - Thinks it has helped him has lived principally on Sago & gruel while on bourd = I received a number of the Graham Journals from a young man in Boston, think I shal adopt the System & live principally on Dyspeptic Bread & milk - Perhaps I shal try traveling on foot = Think by the time I had walked from Boston to New Haven I should [word missing] much better but if I walk you will know it when I get there -- Write to me when you receive this & tell me everything that thing that has taken place since I left you = I want to know all about how is your helath how is grandma = I think you had better Stay untill Justin comes by all means this is the last time you will ever come here perhaps = I think if you & gandma would partially adopt the Grahm System live on Bread made of unbolted wheat or Rye flour potatoes Rice Oisters Clams & fish leave of Tea & Coffee eat no greasy food & none than all get a large tita sponge or Flesh brush & a very course towel & use them every morning when you first get up Cold or warm weather you would soon get used to it & I think you would find a decided advantage from it = Walk out more; don't stay Shut up all the time because you are weak that is the way to remain so = you can walk a short distance & gradually increase the distance = I have written this by ad spels just as I could cattch them when the Skipper & the most of the others were alseep & the vessel not rolling much = There are 5 or 6 now in their bunks snoozing & I am tucked up to a little board shelf which they call the Table with my feet on the Skippers Chest trying to scribble a letter - I forgot to mention that Frank a methodist man is one of our number he has a family has lately experienced Religion is almost constantly talking of religion & his experince is a nice man - Write as soon you get this & direct to Provincetown = I have not heard from home since we left the little you wrote - I think I shall not go to Boston before your letter reaches here but am not certain = It will probably take 12 days for a letter to go & return -----
                                                          I am your Son -
                                                          L. B. ________"

Being an old swabby, I enjoyed reading about his travails and fishing. It doesn't sound like he is cut out to be a sailor, but he's gaining some good experience in seamanship, etc. The gale that whipped through there may have been the remnants of a hurricane similar to Irene. Hang on, Lawrence, it'll soon be over!  What are curley bread, furniture bloaters, and pilot bread? I think furniture bloaters are biscuits, similar to what we called bloaters. The Navy was still serving beans and corn bread for breakfast when I was in.

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