1 April through 15 April 1793

Monday [1 April] a fine Day Morning spent at work PM took a walk to Mrs Momfords to see a Balloon rise but it unfortunately fell against a post which destroyed it [1]; evening was much affected by the unhappy Situation of a poor Negro in whom appear’d the strongest marks of Conjugal Affection he came to his Master at our lodgings and asked him to sell him to a Captain – that was bound to Jamaica his Wife had been sent their a few weeks before, he said he was not discontented with his Master but he wished to be with his Family his Master told ^him^ he would consent to sell him altho he did not want to part with him, but their was not the least prospect of his finding his Wife as he did not know to what part of the Island she was carried, and the Man that said he would buy him would not give himself any trouble about his finding his Wife, all that he wanted was to make money by him. I so strongly felt his miserable situation that I could not stay in the room. Is it possible that there are beings who are made after the image of their Creator so destitute of Humanity, I never more ardently wished to possess Power and Wealth the first exercise of it should be to join this affectionate Husband to his Wife.

Tuesday [2 April] an agreeable Day in the Morning went to hear Mass it was near my Lodgings in an half finished House the Priest was decorated gaily he had four dirty Shabby Men upon their knees round him one Female looking as bad kneeling in a Chair which were all his hearers he stood before the Alter which looked very tawdry and went through a Ceremony that rather diverted me, than struck a Religious awe [2] – PM took a walk in a Garden that had a fine Grove of Orange Trees in blosom the fragrance of which were delightful saw the Fig Tree & several other that ^were^ new to me, at one end of the Garden was a Tomb with weeping Willows round it, returned so much fatigued as to spend an Hour or two on bed.

Wednesday [3 April] a disagreeable Day a Wind that blew the Sand so as to almost suffocate one if they went abroad PM it raind. –

Thursday [4 April] it raind spent the Day working & reading, was delighted with the reception of [a] Letter from home which brought the most pleasing intelligence. –

​Friday [5 April] spent the Day at home PM took a short Walk. –

Saturday [6 April] very warm at work all Day excepting a Short walk.

Sunday [7 April] a fine Day took a ride to Ogeeche ferry 15 Miles most of the road very fine and exceeding romantic the Woods abound with Beautiful natural flowers went to a public House there which was kept by Genteel people who had the appearance of having seen better Days, found a number of Gentlemen from Savannah their with whom we dined, it is the custom of the place to ride out on Sunday. –

Monday [8 April] a good Day Mrs V— sent for me to take Tea could not go.

Tuesday [9 April] showery spent the Day at home I regret spending so much time at a place that affords so little of the Curious or Elegant to amuse one.​

Wednesday [10 April] a fine Day PM took a walk calld upon Mrs Sheftall and Mrs Putnam took early Tea with Mrs P—.

Thursday [11 April] a good Day spent it at home in working & reading.

Friday [12 April] exceeding warm for April spent the Day at home. –

Saturday [13 April] pleasant PM Mrs Sheftall & daughters [3] evening Mrs & Mr Orick [4] Mrs Mumford. –

Sunday April 14th a fine Day AM went to the Negro meeting the performances were far beyond my expectations the Preacher [5] a very good looking Man dressd in black his Wool rather gray but comb’d up very handsome ^his^ delivery was good and quite ^the^ Orator; when he Prayed the Negros in general kneel some prostrate upon their Faces, they Sing finely and their was great order and decorum. PM read.

Monday [15 April] warm Morning devoted to the Races a great concourse of people Gentlemen & Ladys came several hundred Miles to see two Horses run Pope might well say “Behold the Child” &c &c but a word not in favour of it would be quite unpopular here. [6]


[1] The balloon was operated by Mr. Cortez, whose company performed regularly during Smith’s stay in Savannah. According to an advertisement in the Georgia Gazette, on the evening of February 7, 1793, Mr. Cortez’s company performed at Levi Sheftall’s building in the Yamacraw section of Savannah, demonstrating “a number of new Feats on the tight and slack rope and on the slack wire; with a variety of tumbling, never yet performed here. Mr. Cortez will likewise do the perishing jump in a bag, and will metamorphose in an instant. After which Mr. Florentine will perform the dance of the drunken man. The Play will conclude with a new pantomime.” Prices were 4s. 8d. for boxes, and 2s. 4d. for the pit. The following announcement for the balloon exhibition, referred to in the diary, appeared in the Georgia Gazette on March 28, 1793: “On Monday next, if a good day, Mr. Cortez will set off from the Race Ground A paper air balloon 21 feet high and 44 feet in circumference. No money will be demanded from the spectators, but any gratuity made to enable him to defray expences will be thankfully received.” See also Gamble, History, 34.

[2] Roman Catholics had resided in Savannah since the middle of the eighteenth century. Originally comprised mostly of Irish immigrants and refugees from St. Domingo, this small body of communicants, who called themselves the “Congregation of Saint John the Baptist,” rarely, if ever, had a resident priest until 1809. At the time of Mrs. Smith’s visit, priests from Charleston infrequently serviced the congregation, performing communion and other rites in various houses. In May 1799 the city of Savannah passed a resolution granting the congregation a lot on Liberty Square for the purpose of erecting a house of worship. The church was incorporated in 1801 and eventually erected the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. See Rev. Dr. J. J. O’Connell, Catholicity in the Carolinas and Georgia (New York, 1879), 502–03; also Our Heritage Our Future: The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist 1799–1963 (Savannah, 1963), 3–4.

[3] Mordecai Sheftall married Fanny Hart of Charleston on October 28, 1761. They had one daughter, Perla, born November 11, 1763. Most likely Smith spent the evening with Mrs. Levi Sheftall, the former Sarah Delamotta from the island of St. Croix. Levi and Sarah were married on May 25, 1768, when Sarah was only fourteen years of age. Several daughters were born to the couple: Sarah (April 6, 1771), Hannah (April 11, 1773), Rebecka (February 5, 1775; died July 12, 1777), Rachel (April 21, 1778), Judith (June 29, 1781), and Perla (February 18, 1788). Early marriages ran in the Sheftall family. Mrs. Sheftall’s daughter, Sarah, was married at the age of fifteen to Abraham Delyon on June 1, 1785. Their first child was born the following February, and another child on April 24, 1793, eleven days after the above diary entry. See Stern, “Sheftall Diaries,” 249–51, 253–54, 266.

[4] Most likely John and Ann Orrick. John died at Little Ogeeche in July 1794. Ann remarried in November 1794 to a Colonel Dorsey. See Georgia Gazette, July 10, 1794; November 13, 1794.

[5] Andrew Bryan (1737-1812) was for many years the celebrated pastor of the first African Church in Savannah. Bryan came from a family of enslaved persons living on the plantation of Jonathan Bryan, Esq., near Savannah. He was converted in 1782 through the ministry of George Leile, a former enslaved man who later ministered in Jamaica. With assistance from Leile, Jonathan Clarke (a plantation owner on the Savannah River), and the Rev. Abraham Marshall, Bryan formed the First African church of Savannah in 1788, the first church of its kind in America. Two letters from Marshall and one from Clarke, all written to John Rippon, an influential Baptist minister and editor in London, appeared in Rippon’s Baptist Annual Register in 1791 and detail the early history of the church. Andrew Bryan, after the death of Jonathan Bryan, purchased his freedom and returned to Yamacraw, where he bought land on which to build a house and a building for his congregation, which by 1788 had grown to more than 500. In 1794 Bryan presided over the completion of a new building for the congregation, the first brick structure to be owned by current and former enslaved persons in Georgia. Shortly before the Smiths’ arrival in Savannah, an “Account of the Negro Church at Savannah, and of two Negro Ministers” appeared in the Baptist Annual Register in 1793, which included letters to Rippon from Jonathan Clarke (dated December 22, 1792) and Abraham Marshall (dated May 1, 1793), the same time period as Smith’s visit. Clarke (1737-1803?) a plantation owner along the Savannah River and a trustee of Bryan’s church, composed the following description of Bryan: “Andrew is free only since the death of his old master, and purchased his freedom of one of the heirs at the rate of 50£. He was born at Goose Creek, about 16 miles from Charleston, South Carolina; his mother was a slave, and died in the service of his old master: his father a slave, yet living, but rendered infirm by age for ten years past. Andrew was married nine years since, which was about the time he and his wife were brought to the knowledge of their wretched state by nature: His wife is named Hannah, and remains a slave to the heirs of his old master; they have no children: He was ordained by our Brother Marshall: he has no assistant preacher but his Brother Sampson, who continues a faithful slave, and occasionally exhorts. . . . [Andrew] had four Deacons appointed, but not regularly introduced. He supports himself by his own labour. There are no white people that particularly belong to his church, but we have reason to hope that he has been instrumental in the conviction and converting of some whites. . . . Perhaps fifty of Andrew’s church can read, but only three can write.” In a later volume of the Baptist Annual Register, Rippon published a letter from Bryan, dated December 23, 1800, describing his situation as pastor in Savannah. He notes that his wife had recently obtained her freedom and that his pecuniary circumstances are quite comfortable, “having a house and lot in this city, besides the land on which several buildings stand, for which I receive a small rent, and a fifty-six acre-tract of land, with all necessary buildings, four miles in the country, and eight slaves; for whose education and happiness, I am enabled, thro’ mercy to provide.” He says he now preaches three times on Sundays, “baptizing frequently from 10 to 30 at a time in the Savannah [River], and administering the sacred supper, not only without molestation, but in the presence, and with the approbation and encouragement of many of the white people. We are now about 700 in number, and the work of the Lord goes on prosperously.” Dorothy Smith will be one of the whites witnessing a baptism by Bryan during her stay in Savannah. Bryan also added that his church was about to form another congregation which later became the Third Baptist Church in Savannah (a second Baptist church, composed primarily of whites, was organized in 1795). At the time of Bryan’s death in 1812, the First African Church had almost 1500 members. See Baptist Annual Register, 4 vols (London, 1790-1802), (1:340–41, 342, 541-45; 3:366–67); also Whittington B. Johnson, Black Savannah 1788–1864 (Fayetteville, 1996), 13.

[6] The two leading horses from the races the previous month – Dictator, owned by a Col. McPherson, and Debonair, owned by a Mr. Jones – raced each other on Monday, April 15, 1793, with Dictator winning the first two heats. See Georgia Gazette, April 18, 1793.