the grimsay press

A Mississippi Diary: From St Paul, Minnesota to Alton, Illinois, October 1894 to May 1895
By Oddy, Eliza. Edited with an introduction by Andrew Hook. With an Afterword by Heather Eggins.
ISBN 1845301374
Paperback  134 pages
Published 17 November 2013
UK Price £12.95   Order from
US Price $19.95   Order from

"When we left Minneapolis, we were in high hopes of having a grand and glorious trip, for none of us had ever been on the water before, and it was a blessed thing we did not know some of the narrow escapes and trials we were to have. However, we got as far as Alton all in good health and strength, having gone through many anxious times, and we sincerely thanked the Lord who had watched over us, a lot of land peo¬ple with no experience as to what a really grand and mighty waters the great Mississippi is." Eliza Oddy, a teenager, wrote this remarkable account of the courage, hard work, determination and friendships that sustained the Oddy family during their seven months travelling down river on a small houseboat. Introduced by Andrew Hook, with an overview of the political and engineering efforts made to improve the navigation of the Mississippi in the nineteenth-century, and of the economic changes that may have influenced migration along it, the Diary is supplemented with a gazetteer of the locations described by Eliza. Also included are an account of the same section of the river by Mark Twain - the Mississippi's most famous steamboat pilot, illustrations of contemporary working boats, and the intriguing detail of Eliza's 1910 US patent for a window sash lock. The final part of the story is told by a descendant, Heather Eggins, in a short, illustrated family history. It reminds the reader that the Diary is one part of a bigger journey made by a working class family who emigrated from industrial Leeds, Yorkshire, in 1881 and finally settled in Alton, Illinois in 1895, in 'a place where their American dream of a better life could at last be realized'.

"Today you will see few people travelling up and down the Mississippi, and most Americans have never even seen the river. For a historian, for anyone who has read Mark Twain, it is an odd feeling, for this is – or at least was – America’s greatest ever highway... It was a highway for early traders and settlers; Lewis and Clark’s great journey westward began with six months travelling up the Middle Mississippi River Valley, preparing for their great trek to the Pacific; and the river was vital to the Union war effort, culminating in the Union victory at Vicksburg on 4 July 1863, which tore the Confederacy apart. But more than anything else the Mississippi was a highway for ordinary Americans – Native Americans, white settlers, enslaved and free African Americans, and hundred of thousands of immigrants from Europe.I am delighted, and honoured, to speak about Andrew’s edition of the Mississippi diary of Eliza Oddy, who with five members of her family travelled south along the river in 1894/5, with all of their possessions loaded onto a small houseboat. They journeyed from Minneapolis in Minnesota to Alton in Illinois (close to St Louis). Today one could drive that in a couple of days, but the Oddy family spent over six months on their journey, stopping to find work as they went, and spending four months docked over the winter.This is a wonderful edition of Eliza Oddy’s simple but revealing diary." Simon Newman, speaking at the UK launch of the Diary in November 2013. Simon P. Newman is the Sir Denis Brogan Professor of American History and Director of the Andrew Hook Centre for American Studies at the University of Glasgow.

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