Castorland Journal

Castorland Journal: An Account of the Exploration and Settlement of New York State by French Émigrés in the Years 1793 to 1797

Edited and translated by JOHN A. GALLUCCI
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: 1
Published by: Cornell University Press
Pages: 480
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  • Book Info
    Castorland Journal
    Book Description:

    The Castorland Journal is a diary, a travel narrative about early New York, a work of autobiography, and a narrative of a dramatic and complex period in American history. In 1792 Parisian businessmen and speculators established the New York Company, one of the most promising French attempts to speculate for American land following the American Revolution. The company's goal was to purchase and settle fertile land in northwestern New York and then resell it to European investors. In 1793, two of the company's representatives, Simon Desjardins and Pierre Pharoux, arrived in New York to begin settlement of a large tract of undeveloped land. The tract, which was named Castorland for its abundant beaver population ("castor" is the French word for beaver), was located in northwestern New York State, along the Black River and in present-day Lewis and Jefferson counties.

    John A. Gallucci's edition is the first modern scholarly translation of the account Desjardins and Pharoux wrote of their efforts in Castorland from 1793 to 1797. While the journal can be read as tragedy, it also has many pages of satire and irony. Its descriptions of nature and references to the romantic and the sublime belong to the spirit of eighteenth-century literature. The journal details encounters with Native Americans, the authors' process of surveying the Black River, their contacts with Philip Schuyler and Baron Steuben, their excursions to Philadelphia to confer with Thomas Jefferson, Desjardins' trip to New York City to engage the legal services of Alexander Hamilton or Aaron Burr, the planting of crops, and the frustrations of disease and natural obstacles.

    The Castorland Journal is historically significant because it is an especially rich account of land speculation in early America, the displacement of Native Americans, frontier life, and politics and diplomacy in the 1790s. The Cornell edition of the journal features Gallucci's introduction and explanatory footnotes, several appendixes, maps, and illustrations.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-6015-9
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. viii-viii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. ix-xvi)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. xvii-xxxii)

    The story of Castorland is a story both regional and international. The Journal’s main subject is the progress of the New York Company’s American commissioners, Pierre Pharoux and Simon Desjardins, as they work, write, and travel in New York City and Philadelphia, along the Hudson and Mohawk rivers, and on the shores of the Black River in northwestern New York State. At the same time, in reading their Journal, we enter a story of international scope.

    Between the arrest and imprisonment of Louis XVI in August of 1792 and the beginning of Maximilien Robespierre’s reign by terror in the summer...

  6. Castorland Journal 1793 ARRIVAL AND FIRST EXPLORATIONS
    (pp. 1-74)

    1 July 1793 Are named as the Company’s American commissioners Messrs. Pharoux and Desjardins.

    To M. Chassanis, Director,¹ Pharoux gives his receipt for the property titles and receives the sum of one thousand livres in assignats for travel expenses.²

    Desjardins receives his instructions, and, as the shares were not yet printed, he entrusts M. Chassanis, on his recognizance, with M. Lambot’s receipts for sixty shares.

    That evening left with his brother in the coach for Le Havre de Grace, leaving Pharoux authorization to pick up his brother’s passport, which had not yet been sent to the Department.

    2 July 1793...

    (pp. 75-165)

    10 April 1794 Pharoux arrives in Albany. Upon consulting my letters, and after examining and weighing our situation from every possible angle, we decide on the sale and to leave in two days for New York.

    13 April 1794 Left on Captain Moore’s sloop with Mr. Pershouse, a young English traveler who had spent the winter with Pharoux and had returned with him out of curiosity of seeing the great fall on the Mohawk six miles from Albany.¹ We arrived at Mrs. Ford’s in New York the next day.

    14 April 1794 to 19 inst Our situation was critical. Responsible...

  8. Castorland Journal 1795 BOUNDARIES
    (pp. 166-233)

    Thursday, 1st of January 1795 Saw Mr. Cockran: he informed me that Baron de Steuben had chosen as heirs Colonel Walker and Major North, two of his aides-de-camp in the Revolution. I accordingly went to Colonel Walker’s to recover the 22 pounds which the Baron owed us: I was told that he had not yet returned from Steuben.

    Friday, 2 January 1795 Saw Mr. Cockburn about our boundaries and discussed his map and ours.

    Saturday, 3 inst Went to rendez-vous at Mr. Constable’s. Lengthy and extensive discussion. I do not expect much from them.

    Sunday, 4 inst Received from M....

  9. Castorland Journal 1796–1797 DEPARTURE
    (pp. 234-308)

    Friday, First of January 1796 Saw Messrs. Seton, Constable and our friends.

    Saturday, 2 January Saw Mr. Scriba on the subject of our road. Saw Mr. Green, who also promised me recommendations in support of our petition.

    Sunday, 3 inst Saw Colonel Walker about Baron de Steuben’s debt, which he promised to acquit as soon as the sale was completed. Saw M. Le Guain. I have been unable to meet with Mr. William Constable, as of yet.

    Monday, 4 January 1796 M. Olive hands me a packet of letters from the Company which was sent to me from Albany. I...

  10. APPENDIX A Prospectus of the New York Company
    (pp. 309-318)
  11. APPENDIX B Constitution Of the New York Company
    (pp. 319-340)
  12. APPENDIX C Letter to Nicolas Olive
    (pp. 341-342)
  13. APPENDIX D Synopsis of Travel
    (pp. 343-343)
  14. APPENDIX E Overview of Castorland Workers
    (pp. 344-345)
  15. APPENDIX F Currency and Measures
    (pp. 346-347)
  16. APPENDIX G Place-Names in the Castorland Journal
    (pp. 348-350)
  17. Notes
    (pp. 351-382)
  18. Bibliography
    (pp. 383-398)
  19. INDEX
    (pp. 399-410)