Tuesday, February 15, 2011

William Chandler (3512) - General Notes #2:

In December 1794 William began a trip by boat down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers from Washington County, Pennsylvania to New Orleans. Chandler’s log details the progress of the trip between December 11, 1794 and April 15, 1795.

Extensive trade between western Pennsylvania and New Orleans in the 1790s has been documented by a number of historical sources. Descriptions of the rivers and their navigation can be found in reports of travelers predating Chandler by decades. Research in the U.S. Department of State Library identified several documents indicating fairly extensive knowledge of the western rivers by the late 1700s. An 1810 index of the Department’s library collection notes related documents collated in 1801 by the Department of State at the request of President Thomas Jefferson, perhaps gathering information in anticipation of the Louisiana Purchase and of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

Of particular note is “The Navigator” published in Pittsburgh as early as 1801 – six years after William’s trip - which confirms the names of geographic points recorded in the Chandler log.

William’s log refers often to the strained relationship between the Spanish, who control Louisiana and the Mississippi river, and the American traders who travel the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. The trip is halted on several occasions while the crew awaits issuance of and validation of their “passport.” Chandler’s name is found on a Spanish passport, issued in New Orleans on May 5, 1795 and signed by Baron de Carondolet, granting permission to the crew to return to Norfolk (Virginia.)

It would be interesting to know what goods were taken to New Orleans by Chandler and his fellow travelers, but his log fails to speak either of the cargo or of the crew. New Orleans suffered a major fire in 1794 and was in dire need of all types of supplies. “The Navigator” provides listings of produce commonly shipped from Pennsylvania to and through New Orleans during the first decade of the 1800s: grains, wood and building materials, cloth, manufactured products, bottles and glass, etc. Trade expanded during the first two decades of the 19th century, and was spurred by the introduction of steam boats on the Ohio River by Robert Fulton.

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