Tuesday, September 27, 2005

A ride to Rahway in 1842

Here is a letter from Hannah Wolf, step-sister to Sarah Lefman, my great- great-grandmother. It's probably a draft of something she mailed to her father who was away from home at the time, hence the absence of capital letters and punctuation (which make it look something like a posting in livejournal).
Hannah Wolf
New-York June 28th 1842

A Ride to Rahway

we rode down to the Jersey City ferry and went in the steamboat, then on the cars to Rahway. We went through Newark, Elizabethtown and several other places. Rahway is a very pleasant village; we walked to upper Rahway and went to see Mrs. Phelps' school; it is a large building; she had a great many scholars; I heard them play upon the piano, and they sang some very pretty songs we then went to the Mansion house and waited for the cars. I saw at Mr. Thompson's, a number of Shells in a glass case, some large and hansome [sic] and a case of stuffed birds of all kinds, and some very pretty butterflies. The cars came and I left the pleasant village of Rahway for New-York. The cars go very fast; they don't give you time to view as you pass. I am fond of riding in them. We arrived safe at New-York; we then took the stage and rode home through Broadway and saw a great many hansome things.

My great-grandfather told the following story about a mid-winter attempt at the Hudson crossing. His "best girl" was named after Sarah, called Annie, and later to be my great-grandmother.
Some years previously [to 1857 - so this would be very soon after his arrival in New York] I lived in the boarding house of Mrs. F., 54 Barclay street, and my best girl was in Bloomfield street, Hoboken. She was sitting in her father's parlor on a fine winter evening waiting for me to take her to the firemen's ball, where I had been rash enough to invite her. Not minding the warning of my friends, I started in my "swallow tail" on regulation time, by the Chancellor Livingston [a ferry across the Hudson], but did not get far before we were stuck fast in masses of ice. The wheels [of the steamboat] absolutely refused to turn: with our assistance some of the deck hands finally allowed themselves to be lowered by ropes, with lanterns in one hand and shovels in the other, to remove the obstruction from the blades of our paddles. By heroic efforts they finally succeeded so as to be able to more. We effected a landing at Hoboken about midnight, and I met a reception from my lady as cold as the ice was in the river. We arrived at the ball in time for supper and the champagne soon revivied our spirits; but I will never forget the worry of that long evening.

A steam ferry (this one from Toronto)

Another old sidewheeler ferry

Main Street, Rahway (1920s)

Jersey City cars (1920s)

Trolley in Springfield, NJ, ca. 1915

A New Jersey trolley, 1900 or a bit later

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