Salt Pork and Poor Bread and Whiskey: The Adirondack Diaries of John Brown Francis


This is an account of the visits of John Brown Francis (later a five-term governor of Rhode Island) to the vast Adirondack wilderness known as “John Brown’s tract” after the diarist’s grandfather, one of the founders of the Brown dynasty in Providence. The elder man had had a grand vision of developing the timber and mineral resources of the tract (210,000 acres, or over 320 square miles), but had been repeatedly thwarted by climatic and environmental obstacles. Even though his personal efforts died with him in 1803, his heirs attempted for decades afterwards to carry out his vision. Descriptions of floods, summer frosts and other difficulties in the diaries demonstrate that even after the removal of the British and Indian threats following the War of 1812, most efforts to transform the Adirondack forests to agricultural and commercial pursuits (such as the iron manufacturing described in the diaries) were doomed to failure. John Brown Francis was in his twenties when he wrote these accounts in 1816, 1817 and 1818. “[F]rom tavern keepers and toll collectors to farmers’ daughters and land barons, little of the human condition escapes the eye of the youthful annalist. While most of our insights into the population of the early American frontier stem from the observations of foreign travelers like DeTocqueville, Mrs. Trollope and Dickens [and, 40 years earlier, the numerous Hessian diarists], here, for historians of the early republic, is a whole fresh catalogue by an American reporter.” The editor of this work, Henry A. L. Brown, is the grandson of John Brown Francis’ adopted granddaughter. This transcription is thoroughly annotated and well illustrated, and includes a genealogy of John Brown Francis and a foreword by Albert Klyberg, director of the Rhode Island Historical Society. The bibliography lists about seventy-five sources and the every-name plus subject index includes about 350 entries.


Henry A. L. Brown


(1999), 2013, 5½x8½, paper, indices, 132 pp.

ISBN: 9780788407321