The Journal of John Peter Salling
Contributor: Lisa Stansbury-Workman <email@example.com>
It may be necessary before I enter upon the particular passage of my travel,
to inform my readers that what they are to meet with in the following narrative
is only what I retained in my memory. For when we were taken by the French, we
were robbed of all our papers, that contained any writings that were relative to
1740. In the year 1740, I came from Pennsylvania to the part of Orange County now
called Augusta; and settled in a fork of the James River close under the Blue Ridge
Mountains of the West side, where I now live.
1741/1742 In the month of March 1741/2, one John Howard came to my house, and told
me that he had received a commission from our governor to travel to the westward
colony as far as the river Mississippi, in order to make discovery of the country,
and as a reward for his labour, he had the promise of an Order of the Council for
ten thousand acres of land; and at the same time, obliged himself to give equal
shares of said land to as such men who would go in company with him to search the
country as above. Whereupon I and other two men, Vizt (John Poteet) and Charles
Sinclair (his own son Josiah Harwood having already joined with him) entered into
a covenant with him, binding ourselves to each other in a certain writing, and
accordingly prepared for our journey in a unlucky hour to me and my poor family.
1741/2 On the 16th of March 1742, we set off from my house and went to Cedar Creek,
about five miles where there is natural bridge over said creek. It is a solid rock
and is 203 feet high, having a very spacious arch where the water runs thro.
We then proceeded as far as Mondongachate, now called Woods River (New River) which
is 85 miles, where we killed five Buffaloes, and with their hides covered the frame
of the boat; which was so large as to carry all of our company, and our provisions
and utensils, with which we passed down said river, 252 miles as we supposed and
found it very rocky, having a great many falls therin, one of which we computed to
be 30 ft. Perpendicular and all along surrounded by inaccessible mountains, high
precipices, which obliged us to leave said river.
We went then a SW course by land 85 miles where we came upon a small river, there we
made a little boat which carried only two men, and our provisions. The rest traveled
by land two days and then we came to a where we enlarged our barge, and so carried
all our company and whatever loading we had put into her.
We supposed that we went down this river 220 miles and had a tolerable good passage;
ther being only two places that were difficult by reason of falls. Where we came to
the\is river country is mountainous, bur farther down is plainer. In those mountains,
we found plenty of coals for which we named it Coal River. Where this River and Woods
River meets the N. mountains end, the country appears very plain and is well water'd
there are plenty of rivulets, fountains and running streams and very furtile soil.
From the mouth of the Coal River, to the River Allegany we computed to be 92 miles,
and on the 6th day of May we came to the Allegany which we supposed to be 3/4 of a
mile (broad), and from her to the great falls on this river is reckoned 400 and 44
miles, there being a large Spanish open country on each side of the river, and is
well watered abounding with plenty of fountains, small streams and large rivers;
is very high and furtile soil.
At this time we found the clover to be as high as the middle of a man's leg. In
general, all the woods over the land is ridgey, but plain, well timbered and hath
plenty of all kind of wood that grows in common with us in this colony (except pine).
The falls mentioned above three miles long in which is a small island the body of the
stream running on the N side, through which there is no passing by reason of great
rocks and whirlpools , by which we went down the S side of said id island without much
danger or difficulty and in time of a fresh river, men may pass either up or down,
they being active or careful.
About 20 mile below the falls the land appeared to be somewhat hilly the ridges being
higher, and continued so for the space of 50 miles down the river, but neither rocky
nor stony, but a rich soil as above mentioned. Joyning the high land below is a very
level flat country on either side of the river, so for an 100 and 50 miles abounding
with all advantages mentioned above, and much richer soil; we then met with a kind of
ridge that seemed to extend across the country as far as we could view and bore N and
S. In seven miles, we passed it when we found the country level (as mentioned before),
but not having such plenty of running streams but richer soil.
On the 7th day of June, we entered into the River Mississippi, which we computed to
be five miles wide, although in some laces it is not one mile over, having most very
high banks, and in ther places overflows. The current is not swift but easy to pass
either up or down, and in all our passage we found great plenty of fish and wild foul
in abundance. In the River Mississippi above the mouth of the Allegany is a large
island where are three towns inhabited by the French, who maintain commerce and trade
with both the French of Canada and those French on the mouth of said river.
In the fork between the Allegany and the Mississippi are certain salt springs, where
the inhabitants of the mentioned towns make their salt. Also they have a very rich
lead mine which they have opened and it affords them considerable gain.
From the falls mentioned above in the River Allegany to the mouth od said river is
440 miles, from thence to the town of New Orleans is 1, 400 and ten miles, and is
uninhabited excepting 50 leagues above New Orleans. It is a large and spacious plain
country endowed with all natural advantages, that is a moderate heathy climate, sweet
water, rich soil, and pure fresh air, which contribute to the benefit of mankind.
We held on our passage down the River Mississippi, the 2nd day of July, and about
the nine o'the clock, we went to the shore to cook the breakfast. But we were suddenly
surprised by a company of men, viz. to number 90 consisting of Frenchmen Negroes and
Indians who took us prisoners and carried us to the town of New Orleans Which was
about 100 leagues from us when we were taken, and after being examined by oath by the
governor, first separatley, one by one, and then all together, we were committed to
close prison, we not knowing then (nor even yet) how long they intended to confine us
During our stay in prison we had allowed us a pound and a half of bread each day, and
ten pound of pork pmonth for each man. Which allowance was duly given us for a space
of 18 months. After that we had only one pond of rice bread and one pound of rice for
each man pday, and one quart of bear's oil for each man pmonth, which allowance
continued until I made my escape.
Whilst I was confined in prison I had many visits made to me by the French and Dutch
who lived there, and grew intimate an familiar with some of them, whom I was informed
of the manner of Government, laws, strength and wealth of the Kingdom of Lousiana as
they call it, and from the whole we learned that the government is tyrannical, the
common groan under the load of oppression, and sigh for deliverance.
The governor is the chief merchant, and inhances all the trade into his own hands,
depriving the planters of selling their commodities to any but himself, and allowing
them only such prices as he pleases. And with respect to religion, there's little to
be found amongst them, but those who profess religion at all , it's the church of
Rome. In the town there are nine clergymen four Jesuits, and five Capuchin Friers.
They have likewise one nunery in which are nine nuns.
Not withsanding the fertility and richness of the soil, the inhabitants are generally
poor as a consequence of the oppression they meet from their rulers, neither is the
settling of the country, or agriculture in any measure encouraged by the legislature--
One thing I had almost forgot viz We were told by some of the French who first settled
there, that about 40 years ago, when the French first found the place, they made an
attempt to settle therein, there were pretty many Englishmen settled on both sides of
the River Mississippi, and one 20 gun ship lay on the river, what became of the ship we
do not hear but we are informed that the English inhabitants were all destroyed by the
natives at the instigation of the French.
I now begin to speak of the strength of the country, and by the best account I con'd
gather I did not find that there are above 450 men of the militia i all that country,
and not above 150 under pay in about the Town of New Orleans "tis true they have sundry
forts in which they have some men, but they are so weak and despicable as not to be
taken notice of, with regard to the strengthening of the country, having them only six
men, in others ten men, the strongest of all these places is at the mouth of the
Mississippi in which are 30 men, and 50 league from them in a town called Mumvelle nine
leagues from the mouth of the river of the same name in which is a garrison that
consists of 70 soldiers.
After I had been confined in close prison about two years, and all expectation of being
set at liberty failing, I begun to think of making my escape out of prison , one of
which I put into practice, which succeded in the following manner.
There was a certain French man who was born in that country and had some time before
sold his rice to the Spaniards for which he was put in prison, and it cost him 600
pieces of eight before he got clear. He being tiered of the misery and oppression under
which the poor country people labour, formed the design of removing his family to South
Carolina. Which design was discovered , and he was again put into prison in the dungeon
and made fast in irons, after a formal tryal, he was condemned to be a slave for ten
years, besides the expense of 700 pieces of eight.
With the miserable Frenchmen I became intimate and familiar, and as he was an active
man, and knew the country he promised, if I could help him off with his irons, and we
all got clear of the prison, he could conduct us safe until we were out of danger, We
got a small file from a soldier wherein to cut the irons, and on the 24th of Oct. 1744,
we put our design in practice.
While the Frenchman was busy in the dungeon cutting the irons, we were industrious
without in breaking the door of the dungeon, and each of us finished our jobb at the
instant of time, which had held us for about six hours; by three of the clock in the
morning with help of a rope which I had provided beforehand, we let ourselves down the
prison walls, and made our escape.
Two miles from the town that night, we lay close for two days. When then removed from
the place two miles from town, where one of the good old fryers of which I spoke
before, nourished us four days. On the 8th day after we made the escape we came to
the lake seven leagues from the town but by this time we had got a gun and some
ammunition, the next day we shot two large bulls, and with their hides, made us a boat,
in which we passed in the lake at night. We tied the shoulder blades of the bull to
small sticks, which served us for paddles and passed a point where there were 13 men
lay in wait for us, but thro' mercy we escaped from them undiscovered.
After we had gone by water 60 miles we went on shore, we left our boat as a witnessed
we had escaped the French. We traveled 30 miles by land to the River Skoktare, we
passed through a nation of Indians, who were very kind to us, and carried over two
large bays. In this place we tarried two months and ten days in a very great danger,
for search was made for us everywhere by land and water, and orders to shoot us where
found. Great rewards were promised by the governor to the King of the Indians to take
us, which he refused, and in the meantime was very kind by giving provisions and
informing us of our danger from time to time.
After they had given over searching for us, and we having got a large periaugue and
other necessary things for our voyage, and on the 25th of January Our French man, one
Negro boy (which he took to wait on him) and another French man and we being all well
armed and provided for our voyage, We took off for a place called the Bell Fountain,
and sailed 50 Leagues to St. Roses's Bay, and there left our vessel and traveled by
land 30 leagues to the Fort Indians, where the English trade. Then there were three
with them, and there we stayed five days.
The natives were kind to us and generous, there we left the two Frenchmen and Negro
boy, on the 10th of February set off and traveled by land up the River Giscaculfufa
or Biscaculfufa, 135 miles, passing several Indian towns with the natives being very
hospitable and kind, and came to one Finlas, an Indian trader who lives among the Uga
On the first of March we left Mr. Finlas, and of the 16th we arrived at Ft. Augustus
in the Province of Georgia, On the 19th, instant we left Augustus and on the 1st of
April we arrives in Charles Town and waited on the governor, who examined us
concerning our travels etc. and he detained us in Charles Town 18 days, and made us
a present of 18 pounds of their money, which did no more than defray our expenses
whilst in that town.
I hand delivered the governor a copy of my journal, which when I asked again he
refused to give me, but having obtained from him a pass we went on board a small
vessel bound for Virginia. On the 13th of April, the same day about two of the
o'clock we were taken by the French in Cape Roman and kept prisoners till 11 of the
clock the next day, at which time the French after having robbed us of all our
provisions we had for our voyage or journey, put us into a boat we being 12 men in
number, so left us to the mercy of the seas and wind.
On the 15th instant we arrived again in Charles Town and we were examined again
about being taken by the French
We were detained three days before we could get another pass from the governor, we
having destroyed the former when we were taken by the French, and then were
dismissed being in a strange place, far from home, destitute of friends, cloathing,
money and arms and in that deplorable condition had been obliged to take a journey
o 500 miles, but a gentleman who was a commander of a privateer, and then lay at
Charles Town with whom we had discoursed several times, gave to us a gun and a sword,
and would have given us ammunition, but he had but little.
On the 18th day of April, we left Charles Town, the second time, and traveled by land
and on the 17th day of May 1745 we arrived at my house, having been absent three
years, two months and one day, from my family, having in that time the nicest
calculation I am able to make, travelled by land and water 4,606 miles since I left
my house until I returned again.
A note on the text: I obtained this material from a genealogy book entitled Annals
of and American Family by E. Waddel. Waddel sites the source of the material as the
Virginia Magazine of History and Biography Volumes 29 & 30. In the book Annals of an
American Family, Waddel stuck with Salling's use of capital letters for nouns and
words which follow punctuation marks. I found that too cumbersome, as I wanted to
share the material with any interested reader as soon as possible, I decided that
modern standard would be adequate. I also replaced some written numbers to arabic
numerals. All punctuation was left in tact as was spelling. I hope that you enjoyed
reading this material.
L.S. Workman, 6th great granddaughter of Jon Peter Salling by his
daughter Catherine Fuller