Business and Labor

Sarah Kemble Knight Rides the Post Road Again

Approximate_route_of_Sarah_Kemble_Knight's_Journey,_1704-1705
Approximate_route_of_Sarah_Kemble_Knight's_Journey,_1704-1705

Approximate route of Sarah Kemble Knight, 1704-1705, including Connecticut Colonie; detail of John Senex, A New Map of the English Empire in America, 1719

In 1704, Sarah Kemble Knight made a long and toilsome journey on horseback along the Boston Post Road from Boston to New York -- an unusual thing for a woman to do back then. But Madame Knight, as she was called, was unusually courageous. She was an independent 38-year-old widow of some means; a teacher and a businesswoman. She was well-educated and well-bred with a sharp, if condescending, sense of humor.

Sarah Kemble Knight kept a journal of the trip that is still well known to historians. In the journal, she described the hardships of travel in early 18th century America. She was especially interested in the manners and customs of Connecticut, which in 1704 was a foreign land to a Bostonian.

Connecticut was more rural and more diverse than Massachusetts, as thousands of immigrants arrived from Germany, Scotland, Ireland, the Netherlands and France. Sarah Kemble Knight poked fun at their country mannerisms and customs that differed from those of a proper Bostonian.

She originally intended just to travel to New Haven, but there she discovered she had to go to New York to finish her business. She generally hired guides or accompanied the post rider to show her the way, but on the trip from New Haven to New York she traveled with a kinsman, Mr. Thomas Trowbridge.

Sarah Kemble Knight

Sarah Kemble Knight

On Dec. 6, 1704, she set out for New York after a two-month stay in New Haven. In her diary she described her hellish night at an inn, or 'ordinary,' in Rye, N.Y.

Being by this time well Recruited and rested after my Journy, my business lying unfinished by some concerns at New York depending thereupon, my Kinsman, Mr. Thomas Trowbridge of New Haven, must needs take a Journy there before it could be accomplished, I resolved to go there in company with him, and a man of the town which I engaged to wait on me there. Accordingly, Dec. 6th we set out from New Haven, and about 11 same morning came to Stratford ferry; which crossing, about two miles on the other side Baited our horses and would have eat a morsel ourselves, But the Pumpkin and Indian mix Bred had such an Aspect, and the Bare-legg'd Punch so awkward or rather Awfull a sound, that we left both, and proceeded forward, and about seven at night come to Fairfield, where we met with good entertainment and Lodg'd; and early next morning set forward to Norowalk, from its half Indian name North-walk, when about 12 at noon we arrived, and Had a Dinner of Fryed Venison, very savory. Landlady wanting some pepper in the seasoning, bid the Girl hand her the spice in the little Gay cup on ye shelf. From hence we Hasted towards Rye, walking and Leading our Horses neer a mile together, up a prodigios high Hill; and so Riding till about nine at night, and there arrived and took up our Lodgings at an ordinary, wch a French family kept. Here being very hungry, I desired a fricassee, wch the Frenchman undertaking, managed so contrary to my notion of Cookery, that I hastened to Bed superless; And being showed the way up a pair of stairs which had such a narrow passage that I had almost stopt by the Bulk of my Body; But arriving at my apartment found it to be a little Lento Chamber furnish amongst other Rubbish with a High Bedd and a Low one, a Long Table, a Bench and a Bottomless chair, -- LIttle Miss went to scratch up my Kennell wch Russelled as if she'd bin in the Barn amongst the Husks, and suppose such was the contents of the tickin--nevertheless being exceeding weary, down I laid my poor Carkes (never more tired) and found my Covering as scanty as my Bed was hard. Annon I heard another Russelling noise in Ye Room--called to know the matter--Little miss said shee was making a bed for the men, who, when they were in Bed, complained their legs lay out of it by reason of its shortness--my poor bones complained bitterly not being used to such Lodgings, and so did the man who was with us; and poor I made but one Grone, which was from the time I went to bed to the time I Riss, which was about three in the morning, Setting up by the Fire till Light, and having discharged our ordinary wch was as dear as if we had had far better fare--wee took our leave of Monsier and about seven in the morn come to New Rochell a french town, where we had a good Breakfast. And in the strength of that about an how'r before sunset got to York.

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Scott L. Ratcliffe

    Scott L. Ratcliffe

    December 6, 2014 at 5:20 pm

    When did the “Sea of New England” name get dropped?

  2. Dave Edgecombe

    Dave Edgecombe

    December 6, 2014 at 6:58 pm

    Travel during the 1700’s had to have been rough for any. The people had to be strong.

  3. Pingback: Madame Knight Rides the Post Road Home - New England Historical Society

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