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The COMMITTEE of the Free Society of TRA
DERS of that Province, residing in London;
CON TA I N I N G
A GENERAL DESCRIPTION of the said Province, its
Soil, Air, Water, Seasons, and Produce, both
Published in the Year 1683.
My kind friends : THE kindness of yours by the ship Thomas and
Anne, doth much oblige me; for by it I perceive the interest you take in my health and reputation, and the prosperous beginning of this province, which you are so kind as to think may much depend upon them. In return of which, I have sent you a long
letter, letter, and yet containing as brief an account of myself, and the affairs of this province, as I have been able to make.
In the first place, I take notice of the news you sent me, whereby I find some persons have had to little wit, and so much malice, as to report my death; and, to mend the matter, dead a Jesuit too. One might have reasonably hoped, that this distance, like death, would have been a protection against spite and envy; and indeed, absence being a kind of death, ought alike to secure the name of the absent as the dead; because they are equally, unable, as such, to defend themselves : but they that intend mischief, do not use to follow good rules to effect it. However, to the great forrow and shame of the inventors, I am still alive, and no Jesuit, and, I thank God, very well. And without injustice to the authors of this, I may venture to infer, that they that wilfully and fallly report, would have been glad it had been so. But I perceive many frivolous and idle stories have been invented since my departure from England, which, perhaps, at this time, are no more alive than I am dead.
But if I have been unkindly used by some I left behind me, I found love and respect enough where I came; an universal kind welcome, every fort in their way. For here are some of several nations, as well as divers judgments: nor were the natives wanting in this, for their kings, queens, and great men, both visited and presented me; to whom I made suitable returns, &c.
For the province, the general condition of it take as followeth.
1. The country itself, in its soil, air, water, seasons, and produce, both natural and artificial, is not to be despised. The land containeth divers sorts of earth, as fand yellow and black, poor and rich: also gravel both loamy and dusty; and in some places a fait fat earth, like to our best vales in England, especially by
inland brooks and rivers; God in his wisdom having ordered it so, that the advantages of the country are divided, the back-lands being in general three to one richer, than those that lie by navigable waters. We have much of another foil, and that is a black hafelmould, upon a stony or rocky bottom.
II. The air is sweet and clear, the heavens serene, like the south parts of France, rarely overcast; and as the woods come, by numbers of people, to be more cleared, that itself will refine.
III. The waters are generally good; for the rivers and brooks have mostly gravel and stony bottoms, and in number hardly credible. We have also mineral waters, that operate in the same manner with Barnet and North-Hall, not two miles from Philadelphia.
IV. For the seasons of the year, having by God's goodness now lived over the coldest and hottest that the oldest liver in the province can remember, I can say something to an English understanding. · First, Of the fall, for then I came in: I found it from the 24th of Oétober, to the beginning of December, as we have it usually in England in September, or rather like an English mild spring. From December, to the beginning of the month called March, we had sharp frosty weather; not foul, thick, black weather, as our north-east winds bring with them in England; but a sky as clear as in summer, and the air dry, cold, piercing and hungry;, yet I remember not that I wore more clothes than in England. The reason of this cold is given, from the great lakes that are fed by the fountains of Canada. The winter before was as mild; scarce any ice at all; while this, for a few days, froze up our great river. Delaware. From that month, to the month called June, we enjoyed a sweet spring, no gusts, but gentle showers, and a fine sky. Yet this I observe, that the winds here, as there, are more inconstant spring and fall, upon that turn of nature, than in summer or winter. From thence, to this present month, which
endeth the summer, (commonly speaking) we have had extraordinary heats, yet mitigated sometimes by cool breezes. The wind that ruleth the summer-seafon, is the south-west; but spring, fall, and winter, it is rare to want the wholesome north-western seven days together : and whatever mists, fogs, or vapours, foul the heavens by easterly or foutherly winds, in two hours time are blown away; the one is followed by the other: a remedy that seems to have a peculiar providence in it to the inhabitants; the multitude of trees, yet standing, being liable to retain mifts and vapours, and yet not one quarter so thick as I expected.
V. The natural produce of the country, of vegetables, is trees, fruits, plants, flowers. The trees of most note, are the black walnut, cedar, cypress, chefnut, poplar, gumwood, hickery, sassafrass, alh, beech, and oak of divers forts, as red, white, and black; Spanish chesnut and swamp, the most durable of all: of all which, there is plenty for the use of man.
The fruits that I find in the woods, are the white and black mulberry, chesnut, walnut, plumbs, strawberries, cranberries, hurtleberries, and grapes of divers forts. The great red grape (now ripe) called by ignorance, « The fox-grape,' (because of the relish it hath with unskilful palates) is in itself an extraordinary grape, and by art, doubtless, may be cultivated to an excellent wine, if not so sweet, yet little inferior to the Frontiniac, as it is not much unlike in taste, ruddiness set aside ; which in such things, as well as mankind, differs the case much: there is a white kind of muskadel, and a little black grape, like the cluster-grape of England, not yet so ripe as the other; but they tell me, when ripe, sweeter, and that they only want skilful vinerons to make good use of them: I intend to venture on it with my Frenchman this season, who shews some knowledge in those things. Here are also peaches very good, and in great quantities, not an Indian plantation without them; but whether naturally here at first I know not: how